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Speech by SLW at Best Companies to Work for in Greater China 2015 Awards Presentation Dinner (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the Best Companies to Work for in Greater China 2015 Awards Presentation Dinner this evening (December 3):

Mr José Carlos Bezanilla (Chief Executive Officer, Great Place to Work in China), Mr Alex Ho (General Manager of Education, Recruitment, Circulation and Syndication Business, South China Morning Post Publishers Limited), Mr Alex Kam (Chief Financial Officer, South China Morning Post Publishers Limited), Ms Yvonne Kwan (Sales Director, Recruitment Business, South China Morning Post Publishers Limited), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to address this high-level audience of business leaders, CEOs and top human resources executives from the Greater China region and beyond.

     Let me begin by paying warm tribute to the organiser, the Great Place to Work Institute, and the co-organiser, the South China Morning Post's Classified Post, for bringing this worthwhile event to Hong Kong for the first time, after staging it in Shanghai for three consecutive years. I hope that this shift to Hong Kong will be permanent as the continuous presence of the Best Companies to Work for in Greater China Awards will strengthen our role as a regional talent hub, a vibrant and competitive economy and Asia's world city.

     I would also like to thank the sponsors, partners and supporting organisations who helped forge this platform that sings the praises of good employer-employee relationships.

     Having served as Hong Kong's Secretary for Labour and Welfare for over eight years, I am a strong believer in the paramount importance of a harmonious and trusting employer-employee relationship in the workplace. By surveying around 200 000 employees from over 110 companies from the Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Awards give recognition to private companies which are strong in teamwork and people management, and in fostering an employee-friendly corporate culture. All these are essential ingredients for the success of a company. They are also crucial to the socio-economic development, long-term sustainability and vibrancy of a society.

     My heartfelt appreciation also goes to the 27 award-winning companies who have fostered an ideal workplace for their staff. As a good and caring employer and one of the best companies to work for in the Greater China region, you are not only boosting the morale and productivity of your staff, but also helping the local economy to attract, nurture and retain talents. In doing so, you have played an important and strategic role in fuelling our economic development and sharpening our competitive edge.

     The employer-employee relationship is inherently symbiotic in nature. I have always stressed openly that labour relations have never been a zero-sum game. There are no winners or losers in the workplace. On the contrary, it has to be a win-win situation for all stakeholders if an enterprise is to survive in today's fiercely competitive and fast-changing business world, let alone to thrive.

     Thanks to the strenuous efforts and mutual understanding of both employers and employees at large, Hong Kong has been blessed with generally harmonious labour relations. With our favourable economic environment and stable labour market, the number of claims and labour disputes handled by the Labour Department has been falling steadily in recent years. The successful conciliation rate stands at a high of well over 70 per cent. Last year, the Labour Department handled only three strikes, resulting in a loss of 138 working days, or an average loss of 0.04 working days per 1 000 salaried employees and wage earners, which is among the lowest in the world.

     In a world increasingly propelled by knowledge, information technology and innovation, it is imperative for enterprises to have continuous access to a high-quality talent pool. In fact, the double demographic challenges of an ageing population and a resultant shrinking labour force faced by advanced economies such as Hong Kong make it even more pressing for companies to devise robust human capital strategies to lure, nurture and retain good employees.

     Based on the updated labour force projections, Hong Kong's total labour force, excluding foreign domestic helpers, is projected to increase slightly from 3.60 million in 2014 to 3.65 million in 2018, and then taper off to 3.43 million in 2031. The labour force is then projected to hover between 3.42 million and 3.43 million until 2038, before dwindling to 3.11 million in 2064. The overall labour force participation rate, i.e. the proportion of the labour force in the population aged 15 and over, is projected to fall from 59.3 per cent in 2014 to 48.6 per cent in 2064. These stark statistics constitute an effective wake-up call for company management who fail to grasp the importance of employee-friendly practices.

     Employees may well have different considerations for joining a company, but a tense, difficult and less-than-friendly office relationship is the most often cited reason for staff resignations. It goes without saying that unwarranted staff turnover is both costly and disruptive for an enterprise's smooth operation.

     There is indeed no better strategy than to foster a strong sense of belonging amongst the employees through the vehicle of an employee-friendly workplace.

     The Labour Department has, as a facilitator, been promoting the importance and wider adoption of friendly employment practices for families and mature persons. In August this year, the department staged a thematic seminar for human resources practitioners with emphasis on friendly employment practices. With the assistance of employer associations, labour unions and academics, we have also produced a new set of family-friendly employment practical guidelines designed especially for the catering industry to help employers in the trade implement family-friendly measures that best suit the industry. Through these awareness-building exercises among employers and also through labour unions, we are gradually instilling a family-friendly culture in the workforce.

     When companies join the league of caring employers and proactively build up a friendly work environment, they will soon reap their rewards from their happy staff who make contributions not only to the enterprises, but also society.

     The world looks to the Greater China region as a major economic powerhouse where job opportunities abound. I believe that the tripartite efforts of the governments concerned, the business communities and the workforce in fostering a harmonious work culture will drive the Greater China region forward with vigour and bring it to new heights.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, December 3, 2015
Issued at HKT 20:19


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