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LCQ11: Support for people aged between 60 and 64
     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (April 11):


     Quite a number of grass-roots elderly people who have just reached the age of 60 have relayed that as they earlier on retired because they had reached the age of 60 or left the workforce due to health issues, they no longer have any work income. Coupled with the fact that they are ineligible to apply for most of the welfare benefits for the elderly as they have not reached the age of 65, they therefore have no choice but to live on their meagre savings. They criticise that the prevailing elderly welfare policy is at odds with reality, leaving those aged between 60 and 64 in a welfare vacuum for several years.  What is worse, the Government will implement in the fourth quarter of this year the earliest an arrangement of raising the eligible age for elderly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) from 60 to 65. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it will consider lowering the eligible age to 60 in respect of Old Age Living Allowance, Elderly Health Care Vouchers and the $2 transport fare concession for the elderly, and of the additional expenditure involved annually; if not, whether it will provide similar welfare benefits for those aged between 60 and 64 through the Community Care Fund;

(2) notwithstanding the Government's plan to provide an on-the-job training allowance for employers to encourage them to engage people aged 60 or above who have left the workforce or are unemployed, but some unemployed people who have recently reached the age of 60 have indicated that they have difficulties in securing a job owing to their low academic qualifications and lacking professional skills, of the Government’s new measures to help them find employment; whether it will enact legislation to provide for a retirement age at 65, so as to enhance the employment protection for those aged between 60 and 64; and

(3) whether it will consider maintaining the eligible age for elderly CSSA at 60; if not, of the reasons for that?



     Having consulted relevant bureaux and departments, my reply to the Member's question is as follows:

(1) While the target beneficiaries of the Old Age Living Allowance (OALA), the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme and the Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities are elderly persons aged 65 or above, the Government has put in place different eligibility criteria for the three schemes having regard to their respective policy objectives. For example, OALA is means-tested while the other two schemes are not subject to means test.  

     According to the population projections of the Census and Statistics Department, the number of elderly persons aged between 60 and 64 in 2018 is about 552 000. It is expected that the Government's financial commitment will be substantially increased if the eligibility criteria for the three schemes mentioned above were lowered to 60. Although the Government does not plan to lower the age requirement of the three schemes from 65 to 60, the Government will keep in view the operation of the schemes and introduce improvement measures in a targeted manner at appropriate junctures. For instance, according to information provided by the Food and Health Bureau, the Government proposed in the 2018-19 Budget to raise the accumulation limit of elderly health care vouchers from $4,000 to $5,000 and provide, on a one-off basis, an additional $1,000 worth of vouchers for each eligible elderly person. It is expected that about 1.2 million elderly persons will benefit.

(2) The Government is committed to providing appropriate employment services for mature persons. To help them re-join the labour market, the Labour Department (LD) implements various measures for mature job seekers such as staging large-scale thematic job fairs and district-based job fairs for part-time employment, setting up special counters at its job centres, organising employment briefings, establishing a dedicated webpage under the Interactive Employment Service website, etc. to facilitate their access to updated employment information and search for suitable job vacancies. In 2017, LD recorded 1 419 270 vacancies from various industries and occupations in the private sector. Among them, 398 449 vacancies had no requirement on educational qualifications, accounting for 28.1 per cent of all vacancies. LD also requires that employers using its recruitment services cannot impose any discriminatory entry requirements (including age) in their job vacancies. Job seekers with different backgrounds (including mature persons) may choose vacancies which suit their own circumstances and needs, and apply directly to employers or through LD's employment services. 

     LD plans to enhance the Employment Programme for the Middle-aged in 2018. 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 mature job seekers aged 60 or above who had left the workforce or are unemployed. This initiative on the one hand further encourages employers to hire mature persons, and on the other provides mature employees with on-the-job training.

     At the same time, 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 more mature persons, provide trainees (including mature persons) with placement follow-up services upon their completion of placement-tied courses, organise support services like the "Workplace Re-entry" activity series and the "Work Experience Day", etc., in order to help more 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.

     There is no statutory retirement age in Hong Kong. However, for some specific occupations with the retirement age of their relevant practitioners regulated by legislation, the Government conducts reviews from time to time in view of various social developments. For example, the Pilotage Ordinance (Cap 84) was amended in May 2013 to allow Class I pilots beyond the age of 65 to continue to work in accordance with their licences until the age of 68; and in December 2015, the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance (Cap 460) was amended to raise the upper age limit for the Category B Security Personnel Permit from 65 to 70.

(3) In view of the improved life expectancy of the population and the recent trend to extend the retirement age to 65, the Government announced in January 2017 that the eligible age for elderly CSSA would be raised from 60 to 65.  Elderly persons aged between 60 and 64 who are receiving CSSA before the new policy takes effect will not be affected.  The CSSA payments of disabled persons or persons in ill health will also not be affected by the new policy, i.e. they will, regardless of their age, continue to receive CSSA payments which are higher than those applicable to able-bodied adults.
Ends/Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Issued at HKT 16:10
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