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LCQ7: Manpower shortage in elderly service sector
     Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Caspar Tsui, in the Legislative Council today (November 29):


     Last month, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare pointed out, by citing the preliminary data of a recently completed survey on the manpower situation of subsidised residential care homes for the elderly and home care services teams, that the current vacancy rates of domestic helpers and personal care workers had been on the rise and already exceeded 18 per cent.  The Secretary also indicated that importation of foreign labour would only be a matter of time.  Regarding the manpower shortage in the elderly service sector, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the details of the aforesaid survey, including the (i) vacancy rates and (ii) existing remuneration packages of the various types of elderly service positions;

(2) whether it knows the current total number of vacancies of elderly service positions; among them, of the respective numbers of vacancies of home managers, welfare workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurses, care workers, personal care workers, health workers and domestic helpers; of the respective wastage rates of holders of such positions in each of the past five years; the positions with higher wastage rates of their holders, and whether it has studied the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it will, by making reference to the practice of the Task Force on Manpower Development of the Retail Industry set up in 2013, set up a task force on manpower development of the elderly service sector to review the manpower situation of the sector and put forward recommendations for improving its overall manpower development; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government is very concerned about the manpower situation of the social welfare sector, and has implemented a number of measures to enhance the supply of front-line care staff and improve their work prospects.  The measures include implementing Qualifications Framework (QF) in the elderly service sector, organising the Enrolled Nurse Training Programme for the social welfare sector, implementing the Navigation Scheme for Young Persons in Care Services, etc.

     My reply to the Member's question is as follows:

(1) To understand the manpower situation of front-line care workers in subsidised welfare services, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) sought to collect relevant data from 69 subsidised non-government organisations in August 2017 through a questionnaire.  These organisations were providing elderly and/or rehabilitation services, and the notional staff establishments of their subsidised service units consisted of the posts of personal care worker (PCW), home helper (HH) and/or ward attendant (WA).

     Among the 64 questionnaires received, 62 organisations indicated that their subsidised elderly and/or rehabilitation service units had employed PCW, HH and/or WA.  According to the information provided by the organisations, the staff establishment, staff strength and vacancy rate of the posts concerned on July 31, 2017 are as follows –
(applicable to subsidised elderly and rehabilitation service units)
Staff Establishment Staff Strength Vacancy Rate
PCW 7 403.5 6 073.9 18.0%
HH 1 318.0 1 070.5 18.8%
WA 1 643.5 1 384.4 15.8%

     According to the findings of the questionnaire survey, information on the salary and allowance of the posts concerned on July 31, 2017 is as follows –
(applicable to subsidised elderly and rehabilitation service units)
Average Starting Salary Point Average Maximum Salary Point Average Monthly Allowance
PCW $13,157 $16,449 $789
HH $10,800 $15,864 $254
WA $12,349 $14,703 $889

(2) Apart from the above information, SWD has no other figures on vacancies or wastage rates of posts in the elderly service sector.

     According to the above questionnaire survey, over 90 per cent of the organisations responded indicated that it was difficult to recruit PCW, HH and/or WA, and that increasing the salaries of these workers could help improve the manpower shortage problem.

(3) As proposed in the 2017 Policy Agenda, SWD will provide additional resources for subsidised elderly service units to increase the salaries of PCW and HH (i.e. the salaries of PCW and HH will be increased by two pay points in the current calculation of the subsidy for salaries (Note)), thereby enabling these service units to recruit and retain staff more effectively.  This initiative will also cover similar posts in service units of subsidised rehabilitation services as well as family and child welfare services.  In addition, as proposed in the 2017 Policy Agenda, SWD will launch a five-year scheme to provide full subsidies for home managers, health workers and care workers of all RCHEs and residential care homes for persons with disabilities in the territory to enrol in QF-based training courses, so as to enhance their work prospects and attract more people to join the elderly service sector.

     The Government will continue to closely monitor the manpower situation of the sector and explore suitable improvement measures.

Note: For instance, for a PCW working in a subvented residential care home for the elderly (RCHE), SWD's monthly subsidy on salaries for the organisation will be increased from about $17,100 at present by about $2,300 to about $19,400, together with the subsidy for the Mandatory Provident Fund (employer's portion).
Ends/Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:15
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