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Opening remarks by SLW at press conference on initiatives of Labour and Welfare Bureau in 2013 Policy Address (with video)

     Following is the opening remarks by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the press conference today (January 18) on policy initiatives in the 2013 Policy Address:

     The current term Government is committed to building a caring society. Poverty alleviation, care for the elderly, assistance for the frail and employment support are some of the key areas highlighted in this year's Policy Address.

     Our target of setting a poverty line within this year demonstrates our determination and commitment in tackling poverty.

     In strengthening elderly care and enhancing support for persons with disabilities, we are taking visionary, strategic, targeted and pragmatic measures.

Strengthening elderly care services

     With a rapidly ageing population, we must get prepared today. Promoting "ageing in place as the core, institutional care as back-up" is the policy objective of our elderly care services. To this end, we will continue to strengthen both subsidised community care services and residential care services.

     The launching of the first phase of the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly in September this year will mark an important step forward. The Scheme adopts an innovative funding mode of "money follows the user" and enables more flexible choice by the eligible elderly. Besides, more service providers, including social enterprises, may be attracted and thus be conducive to the healthy development of a silver hair market in Hong Kong. This will also provide job opportunities for those who wish to pursue a career in the elderly services sector.

     We will be launching the "Old Age Living Allowance" (OALA) in April and the "Guangdong (GD) Scheme", designed for Hong Kong elderly people living in GD eligible for the Old Age Allowance or "fruit money" in short, in the second half of this year. We will conduct a review some time after the implementation of these two schemes and explore the feasibility of allowing our senior citizens who choose to settle on the Mainland to receive the Old Age Living Allowance in GD.

Enhancing support for persons with disabilities

     It is noteworthy that the Policy Address has some important measures on enhancing support for persons with disabilities.

     First, to meet the keen demand for day training and residential care services, we are studying the feasibility of redeveloping the former sites of Siu Lam Hospital in Tuen Mun and Kai Nang Sheltered Workshop and Hostel in Kwun Tong into integrated rehabilitation service complexes. Subject to the findings of the technical feasibility study, these two sites will provide a total of about 2 000 places of day training and residential care services, which will go a long way to relieving the shortage of places.

     Equally important, we are enhancing community care at the same time. A three-year pilot scheme was launched in March 2011 to provide persons with severe disabilities who are living in the community and are on the waiting lists for subvented services with a package of home-based care services. The service has been very well-received. We have now decided, therefore, to regularise and extend it territory-wide on completion of the pilot in March next year. The scheme will also be extended to include persons with severe disabilities who are not on the waiting list for residential care home services. We believe that at least 3 000 people will benefit.

     We will also increase the manpower for residential care homes and day training centres for persons with disabilities to enhance the care and support for ageing service users.

     To strengthen employment support and vocational rehabilitation training for persons with disabilities, the job attachment allowance and wage subsidy for job trials under two on-going programmes will be raised from next financial year.

Labour policies and measures

     Turning to the labour front, let me highlight a few points here. First, despite the low unemployment rates over the past year, young people without working experience, middle-aged persons with low educational attainment and skills and persons with disabilities often encounter different degrees of difficulties in looking for or changing jobs. To enhance their employability, the Labour Department will increase the allowance payable to employers under the relevant special employment programmes so as to encourage employers to offer them more openings and provide them with on-the-job training.

     The Labour Department will also open a new job centre in Tung Chung to strengthen employment support to residents living in remote areas.

     On standard working hours, as you know, a Special Committee comprising Government officials, representatives from employer and employee groups, academics and community leaders will be set up within the first quarter of this year to follow up on the Policy Study released by the Labour Department earlier. This Committee will provide a very important platform for informed and in-depth discussion on the issue and also for building consensus and identifying the way forward.

     On paternity leave, we will also consult the LegCo Manpower Panel next Friday with a view to kick-starting the law-drafting process as soon as possible to provide a statutory three-day paternity leave in Hong Kong across the board.

     A lot of foreign domestic helpers are now employed in households in the low income group. Many are living in public rental housing. We have decided to abolish the Employees Retraining Levy imposed on the employers. This will benefit the employers of over 310 000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the opening remarks.)

Ends/Friday, January 18, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:15


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