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LCQ15: Assistance provided for social enterprises

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, in the Legislative Council today (December 17):


     According to the statistics published by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service in April this year, as at the end of last year, there were 457 social enterprises (SEs) in Hong Kong, representing an increase of 13 per cent over the previous year. In addition, it has been reported that a survey in 2011 found that consumers are willing to pay 16 per cent more, on average, for purchasing products in support of SEs, but only 18 per cent of the respondents have patronised SEs. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as some members of the public have pointed out that SEs are mainly engaged in the catering and retail industries and they have difficulties in competing with the business organisations operating in the same industries, of the measures put in place by the Home Affairs Department (HAD) to help SEs develop in the direction of diversification and innovation; and

(2) as a consultant of SEs estimated that only half of the SEs have recorded operating profits, of the new and concrete measures, apart from stepping up publicity efforts and participating in the SE summit, put in place by HAD to help improve the business situation of SEs?



     My reply to the Hon Wong Yuk-man's question is as follows:

(1) The Government is committed to promoting the development of social enterprises (SEs), not only for providing jobs for the socially disadvantaged and enhancing their self-reliance, but also introducing innovative approaches in achieving social objectives. To this end, the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) and the Home Affairs Department have implemented, since 2006, a range of support measures, including the provision of seed money to non-profit-making organisations for setting up SEs under the Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership Programme (ESR Programme); supporting capacity building of SEs by granting subsidies to SE organisations for providing training programmes and support services; enhancing public awareness through school-based, district-wide, as well as territory-wide promotion and publicity programmes; and promotion of cross-sector collaboration for SE development through various platforms such as Social Enterprise Summit and "Be a Friend to SE" Campaign.

     With the efforts over the past years, the SE sector in Hong Kong has made a solid growth, both in terms of quantity and quality. Together with the SE Advisory Committee (SEAC), HAB commissioned the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service - HSBC SE Business Centre to study the latest landscape and service needs of the SE sector. According to the study, the number of SEs has increased from 260 in 2008 to more than 450 currently. The sector has shown a greater diversity in social objectives and the types of services provided, with only about 40 per cent of SEs engaging in catering and retail businesses, and the rest are in other businesses, such as elderly and youth, medical, education, business and environmental protection services. In recent years, more SEs have been innovative in their businesses. Some examples include SEs that engage in performance production, production of adventure programmes, organising bicycle eco-tours, as well as translation services for ethnic minorities, etc.

     With the support of various sectors, we have witnessed increased public awareness of SEs. According to the above-mentioned study, about 80 per cent of respondents were familiar with SEs, and about 70 per cent of them said that they would procure services or products provided by SEs. Take an example, SEs which are in the catering and retail businesses have also been benefited from public support for ethical consumption. The Administration will keep up our efforts in SEs-related promotion and publicity.

     The two Government funding programmes for SEs, namely, the ESR Programme and the "Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprise" Project, together created more than 3 200 jobs for the socially disadvantaged, which are solid contributions to society.

(2) Many SEs are able to develop their businesses steadily while achieving their social objectives. About 60 per cent of the SEs surveyed in the study mentioned in (1) above said that they were able to break even or even make a profit in 2012; and 80 per cent of the SEs funded under the ESR Programme remain in operation after the funding period.

     Following consultation with the SEAC, the Administration agrees on the strategic directions proposed in the study report and will, on top of the existing programmes, focus its efforts in promoting the development of SEs in the following four areas, including enhancing support services for the operation of SEs provided by the SE support platforms; strengthening support for training and capacity building for SEs; enhancing the promotion of SEs at district level; and supporting SE support platforms to promote cross-sector participation, particularly the participation of the business sector.

Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:30


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