LCQ14: Assistance for single-parent families
Some concern groups have pointed out that the Government has not conducted any research study and policy review on single-parent families in Hong Kong for many years, resulting in the failure of the relevant authorities to formulate targeted and more effective policy initiatives to support parents, children and other family members of the single-parent families (in particular the initiatives to help and encourage single parents to seek employment), which has made it difficult for those parents to become self-reliant and better contribute to society. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the Census and Statistics Department conducted a thematic study on single parents in Hong Kong in the 2016 Population By-census, including the number of single parents, the occupation and employment rate of single parents, as well as the employment situation of their children, whether the authorities have, on the basis of the relevant data and findings of the study, reviewed the relevant policy initiatives or formulated new measures, in particular enhancing the provision of employment support for the single parents and their family members; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will conduct a more comprehensive research study and policy review on the latest situation of single-parent families in Hong Kong; if so, of the specific plan; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that the problem of labour force shortage in Hong Kong is serious, whether the authorities will formulate targeted policy initiatives, including encouraging enterprises to make good use of innovative technology, provide a family-friendly working environment, and introduce working hours and models of greater flexibility, so as to assist single parents in securing employment, in particular encouraging those single parents whose children have come of age to re-enter the labour market?
The Government endeavours to implement various suitable measures, including employment support and retraining services as well as social welfare services for needy families, in order to achieve the policy objective of promoting employment and supporting families, thereby building a caring and cohesive community. The consolidated reply to the various parts of the question is set out below:
On the employment front, the Government encourages employers to adopt family-friendly employment practices, including flexible work arrangements (e.g. flexible working hours, five-day work week and remote work or hybrid work model), additional leave benefit to cater for family needs (e.g. parental leave), offering living support (e.g. child care services), etc. These measures help foster family-friendly working environment and enable employees (including single parents) to achieve work-life balance.
The Labour Department (LD) provides free employment services for job seekers. To meet the preference of some job seekers (including single parents) for working part-time, the LD organises job fairs on part-time jobs and has set up a dedicated webpage on part-time job vacancies. The LD also implements employment programmes, such as the Employment Programme for the Elderly and Middle-aged (EPEM) and the Work Trial Scheme (WTS), to enhance the employment opportunities for job seekers with special employment needs. The EPEM and the WTS have been extended to cover part-time jobs to enable job seekers to take on employment while meeting other commitments, such as taking care of their families.
On the retraining front, the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) provides persons aged 15 or above and with educational attainment of sub-degree or below with training courses that are market-driven and employment-oriented, assisting them to join or re-join the labour market. Trainees can enrol in over 700 training courses straddling 28 industries and generic skills having regard to their aspirations, interests and training needs. In considering the specific needs of trainees with family commitments, the ERB provides flexible training programmes and retraining courses, such as the Modular Certificates Accumulation Scheme, which offers half-day or evening courses, for eligible trainees to arrange their study and work flexibly. In addition, under the "First-Hire-Then-Train" Scheme, apart from providing suitable job vacancies, employers also suitably adjust the working hours and leave arrangements to cater for the family commitments of trainees and provide on-the-job training and other related support measures to encourage trainees to stay in employment. The ERB also provides persons aged 50 or above with dedicated courses and the "Post-50 Internship Programme", offering them internship opportunities.
On the social welfare services front, the 65 Integrated Family Service Centres and the two Integrated Services Centres across the territory provide a spectrum of preventive, supportive and remedial welfare services for individuals and families in need (including single-parent families). Since October 2019, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has set up five Specialised Co-parenting Support Centres operated by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide one-stop specialised services for separated/divorcing/divorced parents, including co-parenting counselling, parenting co-ordination service, parenting group or programmes, etc., to assist the separated/divorced parents in carrying out parental responsibilities under the child-focused principles, strengthening parent-child connection and providing support to children affected to promote healthy physical and mental growth. The SWD regularly compiles territory-wide and district-based social indicators on district welfare needs, including the information of the Census and Statistics Department such as demographic characteristics, household income, specific groups (e.g. single-parent families), etc. for the reference of its 11 District Social Welfare Offices (DSWOs). With reference to demographic development and changes in the locality, the DSWOs assess the needs for welfare services at district level and co-ordinate with various stakeholders, including relevant government departments, NGOs and local organisations, etc., through channels such as the district welfare co-ordination mechanisms, recurrent district co-ordinating committees and annual district forums, etc. with a view to better utilising community resources and planning for suitable support services for residents with service needs (including single-parent families).
The Government will review the provision of employment, retraining and social welfare services for needy families from time to time to ensure that the services keep abreast with the times and the support measures are provided suitably and timely.
Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:45
Issued at HKT 12:45