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Speech by Acting Chief Executive at 70th Anniversary Gala Dinner of the Employers' Federation of Hong Kong (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Acting Chief Executive, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at 70th Anniversary Gala Dinner of the Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong today (November 10):

YK (The Chairman of the General Committee, Mr Y K Pang), Federation members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.  It is my honour to join you all to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong.  First of all, my warmest congratulations to the Federation and its members, past and present, on your remarkable achievements and sterling contribution to Hong Kong over the past seven decades.

     Although I am officiating at this momentous event in my capacity as Acting Chief Executive as Mrs Carrie Lam is away in Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, I am in fact a long-time friend of the Employers’ Federation.  My association with the Employers’ Federation dated back to 1996 when I first involved myself in labour and manpower policies as Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower.  My involvement went deeper after I later became Commissioner for Labour, Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour and ex-officio chairman of the Labour Advisory Board.  I then served as Secretary for Labour and Welfare for nearly 10 years until this January.  Let me therefore add my personal and most sincere appreciation to the Employers’ Federation for your instrumental role in maintaining harmonious labour relations in Hong Kong.  I owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.
     The Employers’ Federation was founded in 1947, shortly after the end of the Second World War and at the dawn of Hong Kong’s transformation into the modern metropolis that we see today.  This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  These doubly auspicious and historic occasions provide an opportunity not just to look back but also to look to the future – and I know that Hong Kong’s employers are particularly good at identifying future business trends!

     Shaping Hong Kong’s future was also a dominant theme of Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam’s inaugural Policy Address last month.  She also gave some valuable insights into her vision for the city under the current-term Government.

     Among others, the Government will be more proactive and play the role of a “facilitator” and “promoter” in strengthening our traditional advantages while developing new areas for economic growth.  The proposed lowering of profits tax to 8.25 per cent on the first $2 million of profits of companies demonstrates that this Administration means business and is bold enough to go for tax cuts!

     We also aim to further diversify the economy by boosting the development of emerging industries as well as that of our traditional pillar industries.  Hong Kong holds a competitive edge in areas such as innovation and technology and creative industries, which can drive economic growth and create quality employment opportunities for our young people.

     Turning to people, brain power has always been Hong Kong’s most valuable natural resource.  To sharpen our competitiveness and maintain a highly skilled and versatile labour force, a high-level Human Resources Planning Commission, which I will chair as Chief Secretary for Administration, will soon be set up.  The Commission will identify ways to enhance training for different industries and formulate effective policy initiatives to attract talent from outside Hong Kong.

     Our unemployment rate remains low in recent years and we are well aware of labour supply concerns in some sectors, notably elderly care services and construction, which have persistently suffered from a shortage of labour and recruitment challenges.  While giving employment priority to local workers, we will stay vigilant and explore with stakeholders the pros and cons of increasing imported labour on an appropriate and limited scale to support our development as a high value-added and diversified economy.  We need to move in concert and act together to ensure that Hong Kong possesses the right quality, quantity, skills and competencies of manpower at all levels so that this vibrant world city can forge ahead and stay competitive in the many years ahead.

     Promoting the employment of local workers and protecting the rights and benefits of employees top the agenda for the Government.  Regarding the “offsetting” arrangement under the Mandatory Provident Fund System, the Government is working very hard on a proposal that takes into account the interests of both the labour sector and the business sector.  This would be a fine balancing act with the Government playing a proactive role.  I hope that you will lend us your support once the proposal sees the light of day.  

     Also, the Labour Department will very soon report the outcome of the review on statutory paternity leave to the Labour Advisory Board and the Legislative Council Panel on Manpower.  We will seek their views on the proposal to increase the statutory three-day paid paternity leave to five days.  For working mothers, we will commence a study on ways to improve maternity leave without placing too much of a financial burden on employers.  We believe these advancements in employees’ benefits will altogether help working parents better balance their job and family demands. The business sector will also benefit by having a more stable and dedicated workforce in an employee-friendly environment.

     Ladies and gentlemen, we can take pride in Hong Kong’s remarkable achievements over the years. All along, the Employers’ Federation has made sterling and substantial contribution to our city’s development, advising the Government on major labour and manpower issues and promoting good employment practices.  I know that we can count on the Federation for its continuing support, wise counsel and understanding as we strive to make Hong Kong an even better place to live and work.

     Once again, my warmest congratulations to the Employers’ Federation on its 70th anniversary and I wish all of you an enjoyable and memorable evening.  Thank you.
Ends/Friday, November 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 21:22
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