LCQ11: Measures to assist retired elderly persons in taking up employment again or starting their own businesses

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (March 21):
     It has been learnt that many people are still vibrant upon leaving the workplace at the age of 60.  Also, they have accumulated considerable wealth, built extensive personal connections and had rich life experiences.  Some of them do not want to stay idle after retirement and plan to take up employment again (including taking up part-time jobs) or even start their own businesses.  Regarding measures to assist retired elderly persons in taking up employment again or starting their own businesses, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will conduct a topical study on matters relating to elderly entrepreneurship, so as to examine issues such as the risks elderly persons can bear, the skills they need to learn, how they should deal with the pressure from family members and friends, the arrangements they need to make in respect of business succession, and the precautions they need to take when they quit their businesses;
(2) whether it will consider (i) setting up a development fund to provide funding and information technology support to elderly persons who aspire to start their own businesses, and (ii) relaxing the existing legislation to allow elderly persons to prematurely withdraw the accrued benefits from their Mandatory Provident Fund accounts before the age of 65, so as to provide part of the funding for their plans to start their own businesses; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether it will provide human capital matching services, so as to bring together elderly persons with rich experience and knowledge in the relevant industries and young people with rich creativity to start their own businesses; and
(4) whether it will (i) enhance the existing re-employment support (including training and employment services) for retired elderly persons, (ii) further promote the employment of retired elderly persons and the provision of suitable working environment for them among employers through such measures as providing additional tax allowances, and (iii) provide tax and transport fees concessions to working elderly persons, so as to encourage them to take up employment again after retirement?
     Having consulted relevant bureaux and departments, my reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:
(1), (2) and (3) The Government has been implementing various measures to support entrepreneurship and development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).  There is no upper age limit for these measures, i.e. persons aged 60 or above are also eligible.
     According to the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Limited, it collaborated with banks and non-governmental organisations to launch the Microfinance Scheme in June 2012.  The Scheme aims to assist people who wish to start their own businesses, become self-employed or achieve self-enhancement through training, upgrading of skills or obtaining professional certification but cannot do so owing to a lack of financial means or difficulties in obtaining loans from traditional financing channels.  Under the Scheme, the maximum loan amount of the "Micro Business Start-up Loan" and the "Self-employment Loan" is $300,000.  In addition to extending loans, the Scheme also provides supporting services including entrepreneurial training and mentorship to applicants/borrowers of the Scheme.
     According to the Trade and Industry Department (TID), to assist SMEs in enhancing their competitiveness, it administers the SME funding schemes (including the SME Export Marketing Fund, the SME Loan Guarantee Scheme and the SME Development Fund) and the Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales which aim at providing support to SMEs on various fronts, including export marketing, financing, developing the Mainland market, etc.
     In addition, the Support and Consultation Centre for SMEs (SUCCESS) of TID provides free and practical information as well as consultation services for SMEs.  The Business Start-up Information Service of SUCCESS provides comprehensive information on starting a business in Hong Kong, such as information on required government licences and permits, guidelines on drafting business plan, budget analysis, etc.  SUCCESS also organises seminars, workshops and other events to help SMEs broaden their business knowledge and enhance their entrepreneurial skills.  SUCCESS also arranges SMEs to meet with experts from various sectors for professional consultation through its "Meet-the-Advisors" Business Advisory Service, providing SMEs with practical advice on resolving business problems.  SUCCESS also implements a SME Mentorship Programme to provide an opportunity for SME owners who are at their early stage of business to learn from and be guided by accomplished entrepreneurs through one-on-one counselling on business skills.
     Regarding innovation and technology start-ups, the Innovation and Technology Bureau, through the Innovation and Technology Fund and organisations like the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Cyberport, provides them with various support including incubation programmes, technical support, working spaces, shared facilities, etc.
     Regarding the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) System, according to the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, the System aims at mandating the working population and their employers to make contributions during employment for their retirement savings.  It is complementary to other pillars of retirement protection to provide retirement savings for the working population of Hong Kong.  For a person who has reached the age of 60, if he/she ceased all employment and self-employment, and make a statutory declaration that he/she has no intention of becoming employed or self-employed again, he/she can withdraw his/her MPF accrued benefits on grounds of early retirement.
(4) The Government has been adopting a multi-pronged strategy to provide appropriate employment services for elderly persons and promote their employment among employers, and encourage employers to build a friendly working environment for elderly persons.
     To foster elderly persons to re-join the labour market, the Labour Department (LD) implements various measures such as hosting large-scale thematic job fairs and district-based job fairs on part-time employment, setting up special counters at its job centres, organising tailor-made employment briefings for elderly job seekers, establishing a dedicated webpage for elderly job seekers under the Interactive Employment Service website, etc. to facilitate their access to updated employment information and search for suitable job vacancies.  To further encourage employers to hire elderly persons and provide them with on-the-job training, as announced in the 2018-19 Budget, LD will enhance the Employment Programme for the Middle-aged.  An on-the-job training allowance of up to $4,000 per month for a period of six to 12 months will be provided to employers engaging elderly job seekers aged 60 or above who have left the workforce or are unemployed.  This initiative is scheduled to be launched in 2018.
     Furthermore, LD has all along been actively encouraging employers, having regard to the individual circumstances of their enterprises, to adopt friendly employment practices for elderly persons and extend the working life of their employees so that elderly persons who wish to work may stay in employment.  LD will continue to promote a friendly working environment for elderly persons through various publicity activities such as publishing feature articles in newspapers, publicising relevant messages through different employers' networks, etc.
     Similar to persons of other age groups, mature persons may enrol in suitable courses provided by the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) in accordance with their aspirations, interests and training needs.  In 2018-19, ERB will offer some 700 training courses straddling 28 industry categories and generic skills training, and will provide training courses geared towards the employment needs of mature persons, provide trainees (including mature persons) with placement follow-up services upon their completion of placement-tied courses, and organise support services like the "Workplace Re-entry" activity series and the "Work Experience Day", etc., in order to help mature persons enter the job market.  Besides, ERB will launch the "Tailor-made course for Part-timers" pilot scheme to tie in with the employment needs of employees of different backgrounds (including mature persons), and to facilitate employers in employing such trainees.
     Regarding transport expenses, LD implements the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy (WITS) Scheme which helps low-income earners reduce their cost of travelling to and from work and encourages them to secure or stay in employment.  All persons in employment and self-employment who meet the eligibility criteria of the Scheme, including those who are elderly persons, may apply for the subsidy.  In addition, the Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities (the Concession Scheme) enables elderly persons aged 65 or above to travel on designated public transport modes, including the Mass Transit Railway, franchised buses, ferries and green minibuses, at a concessionary fare of $2 per trip.  The Government has not set upper fare limit for each trip taken by eligible elderly persons.   There is also no limit on monthly subsidy amount.  At present, there are 1.22 million elderly persons aged 65 or above benefiting from the Concession Scheme.
     The Government will continue to monitor the situation of the employment of mature persons, and consider providing further support at an appropriate juncture.

Ends/Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Issued at HKT 16:55