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Speech by SLW at jobsDB Superhero HR Day (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at jobsDB Superhero HR Day today (May 22):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to address this high-powered gathering comprising business leaders, corporate executives and human resources (HR) professionals from a diverse range of industries.

     Let me first thank Jobs DB Hong Kong Limited for bringing together an impressive line-up of expert speakers and providing a useful platform to discuss the important issue of human resources leadership.

     If you ask any seasoned property agent what underpins the value of a property, the answer is a resounding "location, location, location". Equally, if you ask a successful business leader what drives a thriving enterprise, the response is a clear "people, people, people".

     In a world increasingly propelled by knowledge and innovation, human talent has become one of the most valuable and sought-after assets for any corporation and economy. HR experts who know how to lure and groom talents, how to incentivise them for better performance and how to retain them for sustainable corporate development are in great demand. Increasingly, HR professionals have come to the forefront to take the lead as corporate strategists and advisors.

     Hong Kong has little natural resources except its people. This explains why the Government has consistently been investing heavily in education and training. Indeed, manpower resources fuel Hong Kong's socio-economic growth. With Hong Kong facing the prospect of a fast ageing community and dwindling labour force in the next two to three decades, we need to ensure that this vibrant city continues to forge ahead and remain competitive as Asia's world city. To this end, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has recently mapped out a holistic, comprehensive and visionary population policy. In a report released in January this year, we announced some 50 initiatives covering the main areas of promoting sustainable growth, unleashing the potential of the local workforce, enhancing the quality of home-grown talent, attracting foreign investors and talent, fostering a family-friendly environment and embracing opportunities in an ageing society.

     The issue of manpower is one of both quantity and quality. Our priority must be, first and foremost, to nurture local talent and make the best use of our own people. This is where education comes into play. Of course, to replenish the local workforce, to ease sectoral bottlenecks in local labour supply, to bring in expertise and experience which will enhance our competitiveness and maintain Hong Kong's international complexion, we should, at the same time, continue to open our doors to foreign talents and skilled labour as appropriate.

     In this financial year (2015-16), spending on education alone accounts for a significant 22 per cent ($71.4 billion) of the Government's annual recurrent expenditure - the lion's share of all policy areas. This covers academic studies, vocational education and training, skills upgrading and lifelong learning. This speaks volumes about our commitment to nurturing local talent and providing opportunities for upward social mobility.

     The world is rapidly ageing and Hong Kong is no exception. At present, our elderly population stands at about 1.07 million, meaning that one in seven Hong Kong people is aged 65 or above. This ratio will rise to a staggering one in three (or 2.56 million elderly people) by 2041. With an ageing population and low fertility rate, our labour force participation rate will fall from 58.8 per cent in 2012 to 49.5 per cent in 2041. Our current labour force of about 3.59 million is expected to peak at 3.71 million in 2018 and then fall by 200 000 to 3.51 million in 2035 before resuming modest growth.

     In the face of the dual challenges of an ageing population and a shrinking labour force, the Government will leave no stone unturned in facilitating, enabling and attracting women, the young old, new arrivals, ethnic minorities and persons with disability to join or rejoin the workforce. To enhance the employability and overall competitiveness of different sectors of the local workforce, the Government injected $15 billion into the Employees Retraining Fund in early 2014 to finance the long-term operation of the Employees Retraining Board (ERB). The 2014 Policy Address also announced the establishment of a $1 billion fund to provide long-term support for the development of the Qualifications Framework, which seeks to promote lifelong learning and skills upgrading.

     Policy measures to enhance child care, after-school support services and retraining courses targeting the needs of women are being strengthened to offer more female homemakers the flexibility of returning to work. To promote family-friendly employment arrangements, starting from February this year, we have introduced statutory three-day paid paternity leave for eligible fathers.

     On top of our continuous efforts to promote elderly retraining and employment through the Labour Department and the ERB, the Government, as Hong Kong's largest employer, will adopt a higher retirement age for new recruits starting from June 1 this year. This means that the retirement age of new recruits appointed to the civil service on or after June 1, 2015, will be raised to 65 in respect of the civilian grades, and 60 in respect of disciplined services grades regardless of their ranks. For serving civil servants, flexible measures for extending their service will also be formulated in future. We are hoping that this important step forward could have a positive demonstration effect on organisations in the public, subvented and private sectors.

     Coming back to the theme of this conference -"Mastering the Many HR Hats" - I must say that HR practitioners play a pivotal and multi-functional role. And they do wear many hats. Not only are they responsible for corporate hiring and firing, staff retention and retrenchment, training and grooming but also for cost control and mapping out the right HR strategy to ensure the sustainable growth of a corporation in an increasingly competitive, technology-driven and knowledge-based world. They are also troubleshooters, human problem-solvers, staff counsellors and, at times, honest brokers and mediators between employees and the top management in difficult times. They have to make their presence felt and voice heard not merely in the boardroom but also in the front line and on the shop floor. They have to keep their fingers on the pulse of the employees. To all intents and purposes, they are jack-of-all-trades. They are not only unsung heroes but also superheroes.

     Ladies and gentlemen, to best prepare your company, your business and Hong Kong for that matter for the human capital challenges of the 21st century, we must, as the HR superheroes of the private and public sectors, join hands to build a diversified, competitive, versatile and world-class workforce for Hong Kong.

     On this note, let me congratulate jobsDB once again on staging this meaningful conference. I am sure that you will all come away better equipped for the challenges ahead. Thank you.

Ends/Friday, May 22, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:11


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