Special scheme to import care workers for residential care homes to be introduced to address acute manpower shortage

     A spokesman for the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) today (December 14) said that the Chief Executive in Council had endorsed a special scheme to import care workers for residential care homes (RCHs) to be introduced under section 14(3) of the Employees Retraining Ordinance (Cap. 423). The Special Scheme aims to provide greater flexibility and more streamlined procedures to import care workers to address the acute shortage of care workers in the RCH sector.

     The spokesman said, "With a rapidly ageing population and a decrease in the overall unskilled labour force locally, it is expected that the RCH sector needs at least some additional 4 500 care workers in the next three years. The 2022 Policy Address proposed to introduce the Special Scheme next year to cope with these additional manpower requirements and assist the sector in enhancing service quality. On the premise of safeguarding the employment priority for local workers, the Special Scheme will allow the importation of care workers for RCHs for the elderly and for persons with disabilities on an appropriate scale, relax the ratio of local employees to imported care workers, and streamline the vetting procedures for applications. The estimated processing time will be reduced from around five months currently under the Supplementary Labour Scheme (SLS) to around two months under the Special Scheme."

     The key features and parameters of the Special Scheme are as follows:

(1) Having had around 4 000 imported care workers currently in Hong Kong and to import some additional 3 000 care workers, the maximum quota for importation is 7 000 care workers. The sector needs at least some additional 4 500 care workers in the next three years in order to cope with the service commencement of new RCHs and additional residential care places under bought place schemes in phases. In other words, even if all the quotas under the Special Scheme are approved, it is estimated that at least 1 500 vacancies will have to be filled by local job seekers. If factors such as the expansion of the sector and natural attrition of the current troop of care workers are taken into account, there will be even more employment opportunities for local job seekers;

(2) Various types of RCHs may apply to import care workers. Among these, private RCHs and self-financing RCHs (including those participating in bought place schemes) may apply to import one care worker only for every full-time local employee employed (regardless of position) (i.e. 1:1), while subvented RCHs and contract RCHs may apply to import one care worker only for every two full-time local employees employed (regardless of position) (i.e. 1:2);

(3) At the time of submitting an application, RCHs must prove that they have conducted local recruitment through channel(s) specified by the Director of Social Welfare (DSW) but such recruitment has failed to fill the vacancies. The positions under local recruitment must offer a salary not lower than that offered to imported care workers, while the salary of imported care workers must not be less than the median monthly wage for a care worker as compiled by the Census and Statistics Department;

(4) RCHs successfully importing care workers under the Special Scheme should pay the Employees Retraining Levy in the same manner as required under the SLS; and

(5) RCHs must engage the imported care workers through a stipulated Standard Employment Contract, the content of which is largely similar to the prevailing Standard Employment Contract under the SLS.

     The Government will set up an inter-departmental liaison group chaired by the DSW, with membership comprising representatives from the LWB, the Social Welfare Department and the Labour Department. Applications submitted by RCHs will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. The DSW will make a decision on each application after considering the advice of the group.

     The Government will consult the Labour Advisory Board and the RCH sector on the implementation aspects of the Special Scheme. Their feedback will be taken into consideration as appropriate in finalising the implementation and operational details of the Special Scheme, with a view to launching it in the second quarter of 2023.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:17