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LCQ18: Employment of persons with disabilities
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Stephen Sui, in the Legislative Council today (June 7):


     According to the Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report on Disability 2013, the poverty rate of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Hong Kong before policy intervention in 2013 was 45.3 per cent, which was far higher than the 19.9 per cent of the overall population in the same period. One of the main reasons for PWDs being in poverty is that they have low income due to employment difficulties. On the other hand, under the Minimum Wage Ordinance (Cap 608), employees with disabilities may choose to undergo the productivity assessment (the assessment) to determine whether they should be remunerated at a wage no less than that calculated on the basis of the statutory minimum wage (SMW) rate or a wage commensurate with their productivity. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of PWDs who have undergone the assessment since the SMW regime came into operation in May 2011, with a breakdown by their degree of productivity as assessed;

(2) whether it knows the current number of serving employees with disabilities who have undergone the assessment; among these employees, the number of those whose wage is lower than SMW;

(3) whether it has calculated the amount of public money that the Government needs to spend each year for providing subsidies to employees with disabilities whose wage is lower than SMW in order to make up for the shortfall; whether it will consider afresh providing such subsidies;

(4) of the respective numbers of PWDs currently employed by the Government and public bodies, and the respective percentages of such numbers in the total numbers of employees of the organisations concerned;

(5) given that at present, quite a number of countries (e.g. Germany, France and Japan) require that a certain proportion of the employees of private organisations must be PWDs, and those in contravention are liable to substantial fines, whether the Government will consider adopting such practice; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(6) of the respective (i) details of and (ii) amounts of estimated expenditure for the current financial year on the various measures adopted by the Government currently to help PWDs get out of poverty?



     My reply to the Hon Chan Hak-kan's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) Since the implementation of Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) in May 2011, a total of 566 productivity assessments (Note) for persons with disabilities under the Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) were completed as at the end of May 2017. A breakdown by assessed degree of productivity is provided below:
Degree of productivity No. of assessments
50% or below 26
Above 50% - 60% 79
Above 60% - 70% 159
Above 70% - 80% 148
Above 80% - 90% 118
Above 90% - 100% 36
Total 566 (Note)

Note: Some persons with disabilities were involved in more than one assessment.

     The Labour Department (LD) does not keep the statistics on the wage levels of serving employees with disabilities involved in the above assessments. It is understood that some employers are employing persons with disabilities with assessed degree of productivity below 100 per cent at SMW rate. Besides, organisations in the rehabilitation sector reflected that most of the newly engaged employees with disabilities earn wages at or above SMW rate.

(3) MWO prescribes that employees with disabilities whose productivity may be impaired by their disabilities may choose to have their productivity assessed and be remunerated at no less than a wage rate to be calculated by multiplying the assessed degree of productivity with the latest SMW rate in force. At present, the Government has no plan to provide wage subsidy for persons with disabilities.

(4) The Government does not require applicants of government positions or serving staff to declare their disability status. According to the information kept by bureaux/departments, as at March 31, 2016, there were 3 230 civil servants with disabilities (excluding those with colour blindness or defective colour perception), representing about 2 per cent of the strength of the Civil Service. The Government does not have the figures of persons with disabilities employed by individual subvented organisations or statutory bodies.

(5) and (6) The Government's policy objectives are to provide skill training and support services for persons with disabilities to enable them to take up productive and gainful employment in the open market on the basis of their abilities rather than disabilities; provide assistance for employers; and strive to promote an inclusive society.

     Establishing a mandatory employment quota system for persons with disabilities to require enterprises to employ a certain number or percentage of persons with disabilities may create a negative labelling effect on persons with disabilities, which is not conducive to their integration into the community. At present, the Government has no plan to introduce such system for persons with disabilities.

     The Government will continue to proactively implement multi-pronged measures to promote employment of persons with disabilities, including providing vocational rehabilitation and training services for persons with disabilities, providing job matching services in the open market for persons with disabilities, offering financial incentives to employers with a view to enhancing the abilities of persons with disabilities and enhancing support for them on one hand, and encouraging employers to employ persons with disabilities and promoting an inclusive society on the other. The Government also offers grants for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to set up social enterprises with a view to creating more employment and on-the-job training opportunities for persons with disabilities.

     LD has launched the Work Orientation and Placement Scheme to provide allowances for employers of persons with disabilities. An eligible employer who employs a person with disabilities is entitled to a maximum monthly allowance of $5,500 for the first two months of employment. After the first two months, the employer is entitled to an allowance equivalent to two-thirds of the actual monthly salary paid to the employee concerned, subject to a ceiling of $4,000 per month, for a maximum payment period of up to six months.

     The Social Welfare Department, through implementing the Support Programme for Employees with Disabilities, provides employers of persons with disabilities with a subsidy for procuring assistive devices and carrying out workplace modification works, with a view to helping employees with disabilities enhance their work efficiency. The subsidy is basically capped at a maximum support level of $20,000 in respect of each employee with disabilities. A grant of up to $40,000 may be provided for employers in case of special needs.

     Moreover, the Government introduced the following three pilot schemes in 2016-17 to further encourage employment of persons with disabilities:

(a) raising the maximum level of disregarded earnings for disabled recipients under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme from $2,500 to $4,000 per month;

(b) providing an additional monthly subsidy of $5,000 for Higher Disability Allowance recipients who are in paid employment and have met other requirements such as income limit, so as to enable them to hire carers to assist them in travelling between their home and workplace and carrying out activities in their workplace; and

(c) engaging non-governmental welfare organisation by LD to offer professional psychological and emotional counselling services for disabled job seekers in need, so as to alleviate their emotional problems arising from their disabilities or personal/family issues, and help them concentrate on job search and settle down in their new jobs as soon as possible. 

     The Chief Executive announced in the 2017 Policy Address that an additional funding of $100 million would be injected into the Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprise Project and the maximum funding support per business be increased from $2 million to $3 million, with a view to supporting NGOs in setting up more social enterprises to create more employment and on-the-job training opportunities for persons with disabilities.

     The Labour and Welfare Bureau will continue to take forward the Talent-Wise Employment Charter and Inclusive Organisations Recognition Scheme (the Scheme) to mobilise the Government, public bodies and the private sector to make joint efforts to further promote employment of persons with disabilities through participation in the Scheme. Under the Scheme, a participating organisation will devise a host of sustainable measures commensurate with its mode of operation and strive for effective implementation of these measures, with a view to providing more employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

     In 2017-18, the Government's estimated recurrent expenditure for rehabilitation services under the labour and welfare purview is $6.5 billion, which includes the expenditure of the above measures.
Ends/Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:05
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