SLW starts visit in Beijing (with photos)

     The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, arrived in Beijing at noon today (July 27) and immediately commenced his visit programme by calling on senior officials of the Ministry of Civil Affairs to exchange views on ageing society and other social welfare matters.
     During the meeting with the Vice Minister of Civil Affairs, Mr Gu Chaoxi, Mr Cheung said that poverty alleviation, elderly care and support for the disadvantaged are at the top of the welfare agenda of the current-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government. He pointed out that the Government's recurrent spending on social welfare reached $66.2 billion in the current financial year, which accounted for 19 per cent of the total recurrent government expenditures and a substantial increase of 55 per cent when compared with that of $42.8 billion at the beginning of the current-term Government in 2012-13.
     As Hong Kong and the Mainland are both moving towards an era of ageing population, Mr Cheung and Mr Gu also exchanged views on comprehensive plans for elderly care services in both places. Mr Cheung briefed Mr Gu on the HKSAR Government's principle of "ageing in place as the core, institutional care as backup", the strategy of promoting active ageing and the elderly care initiatives implemented in recent years. These included the rolling out of the Old Age Living Allowance in April 2013, benefitting about 430 000 elderly persons, and implementation of the Guangdong Scheme in the same year so that elderly persons who had chosen to reside in Guangdong can continue to receive Old Age Allowance. Moreover, for senior citizens who considered retiring on the Mainland, the Pilot Residential Care Services Scheme in Guangdong has provided them with one more option.
     He noted that the first-ever official poverty line was announced in September 2013 and the Government subsequently launched an array of poverty alleviation measures benefitting various target groups, including the Low-income Working Family Allowance Scheme which started to receive applications in May this year. The Scheme is devised to encourage self-reliance and ease inter-generational poverty. More than 28 000 applications have been received so far.
     Mr Cheung added that according to the latest official poverty line updated by the Government last October, Hong Kong's poor population had dropped to 960 000, a record low since 2009, when data became available.
     Mr Cheung then visited the China Employment Training Technical Instruction Center of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security to see the latest developments of the Center's work. The Center works in collaboration with the Occupational Skill Testing Authority for providing technical guidance for the employment and vocational training work nationally and organising occupational skill testing all over the country.
     Later in the day, Mr Cheung met with some young Hong Kong people working in various professions in Beijing to understand their daily life and working conditions. He encouraged them to broaden their horizons and scope for development by riding on the opportunities arising from the Belt and Road Initiative as well as the advantage of working on the Mainland.
     Mr Cheung will call on the All-China Women's Federation and the State Administration of Work Safety and visit Beijing Social Welfare Institution 1 tomorrow (July 28). He will also meet with officials from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Ends/Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:43