LCQ4: Improving human resources planning
The Chief Executive has indicated in the 2022 Policy Address that the Government will commence a new round of manpower projections. There are views that, to enhance human resources planning, it is far from adequate to rely only on figures. The Government must do a good job in the top-tier design for policy implementation and the coordination of "supply and demand", as well as establish the concepts of "priority employment of local workers", "rewarding hard work with reasonable return" and "everyone being able to share the fruits of economic prosperity and enjoy working and living". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as Hong Kong has established its "eight centres" positioning, whether the Government has promoted the provision of more programmes by tertiary institutions for nurturing local talents who meet the demands of the eight centres; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) as it is learnt that as at January this year, the labour force participation rate of Hong Kong was only 58.1 per cent while the labour force participation rates of Taiwan, Korea and Macao were 59.17 per cent, 62.6 per cent and 68.5 per cent respectively, and the labour force participation rate of Singapore as at the end of last year was 70 per cent, with Hong Kong's labour force participation rate ranking the lowest among those of the Four Asian Tigers and being lower than that of Macao, which is also a Special Administrative Region, by more than 10 percentage points, whether the authorities have new policies and measures to explore and unleash potential labour force, especially raising the labour force participation rate of women; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) as there are views that improving the quality of employment is the key to attracting potential labour force to join the workforce, whether the Government has plans to improve the systems and policies for industries and occupations with strained manpower, including enhancing remuneration packages and improving work conditions (such as implementing a monthly salary system, shortening long working hours, advocating a reasonable work intensity and providing a safe working environment); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The working population is the foundation and valuable asset for the economic development of Hong Kong. The Government endeavours to nurture talents, support employment and provide skill training to create a conducive environment for people to enter or re-enter the labour market and in tandem enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness. Having consulted the Education Bureau and the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau (HYAB), my consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Kingsley Wong is as follows:
(1) Universities have all along played a key role in nurturing local talents. To ensure that the programmes offered by the University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded universities are in line with the Government's policy directions and the latest developments of Hong Kong, the Government set out, in the 2022-25 triennium planning exercise concluded last year, strategic directions including encouraging the universities to think boldly and strategically in mapping out the long-term strategies, taking into account the opportunities of various development strategies in the Mainland. During this triennium, the eight UGC-funded universities offer more than 30 new first-year-first-degree programmes, spanning multi-faceted areas such as innovation, technology and engineering; data science and marketing analytics; financial technology and green finance; arts and cultural management; and interdisciplinary law programmes. This shows the universities' determination to progress with time and nurture talents for Hong Kong's positioning as the "eight centres" under the National 14th Five-Year Plan. The Government and the UGC will continue to work closely with the UGC-funded universities to achieve the goal set out in the Chief Executive's 2022 Policy Address, which aims for 60 per cent of the students in the UGC-funded universities studying in disciplines relating to the "eight centres" in the next five years.
(2) The Government has been implementing a range of measures to explore and unleash potential labour force, including:
(i) The Labour Department (LD) endeavours to provide comprehensive employment services to job seekers, including the elderly and middle-aged, and women. The LD implements the Employment Programme for the Elderly and Middle-aged (EPEM) to encourage employers to hire the elderly and middle-aged who are 40 years of age or above and provide them with on-the-job training (OJT) through the provision of OJT allowance. Apart from full-time employment, part-time jobs have also been included in the EPEM. The LD has also set up a dedicated webpage on part-time vacancies under the Interactive Employment Service website and organises part-time job fairs from time to time;
(ii) The Employees Retraining Board (ERB) provides eligible trainees, including females, with courses that are market-driven and employment-oriented, assisting them to join or re-join the labour market. The ERB offers over 700 training courses straddling 28 industries and generic skills. In the past three years, the placement rate of female trainees who had completed placement-tied courses was around 85 per cent. In considering the needs of female trainees with family commitments, the ERB provides flexible arrangements, such as the Modular Certificates Accumulation Scheme and the "First-Hire-Then-Train" Scheme, for trainees to arrange their study and work flexibly. The ERB's "Smart Living" and "Smart Baby Care" Schemes provide free job matching and referral services for graduates of courses like domestic cleaning, elderly care and post-natal care. These services are popular with female trainees;
(iii) The HYAB supports the Family Council in promoting family core values, i.e. "Love and Care", "Respect and Responsibility" and "Communication and Harmony" to members of the public as well as promoting and encouraging the wider adoption of more diversified and flexible family-friendly employment practices in the community, such as encouraging breastfeeding. To this end, the Council will launch a set of new promotional videos and radio/television programme in 2023-24. The Government also strives to encourage employers to offer flexible work arrangements, additional leave benefit, work and living support, etc., so as to assist female and elderly employees to balance their work and daily needs;
(iv) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides a variety of child care services through subsidising non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to assist parents who cannot take care of their young children for reasons like work commitment. Since 2015-16, the Government has progressively enhanced the manpower of child care centres (CCCs) including the enhancement of the manning ratio of qualified Care Centre Workers in day and residential CCCs. The Government introduced the Child Care Centre Parent Subsidy in February 2020 to partially subsidise the CCC service fees afforded by parents directly in order to alleviate their financial burden. The Government also formulated a population-based planning ratio for aided CCC places with a view to reserving suitable premises in housing development projects for CCC operations so as to better meet the demands in the new community; and
(v) The SWD implements the Fee-waiving Subsidy Scheme to provide financial assistance for primary school students of low-income families who are receiving after-school care services. Since October 2020, the SWD has implemented a host of enhancement measures, including adding full fee-waiving subsidy places, relaxing the application eligibility and streamlining the means-test procedures, increasing the subsidy level, providing extra subsidy for children with special educational needs, regularising the Pilot Scheme on the After School Care Programme (ASCP) under the Community Care Fund, etc. Furthermore, the SWD has commenced the re-engineering of the Mutual Help Child Care Centres from 2021-22 to provide ASCP for pre-primary children in phases and increase the manpower.
(3) As regards employment conditions, taking into account the interests of employees and the affordability of employers, the Government has been reviewing the labour legislation from time to time to progressively improve employees' rights and benefits. In recent years, the enhancement measures implemented included increasing the statutory paternity leave and statutory maternity leave to five days and 14 weeks respectively; increasing the number of statutory holidays progressively to 17 days from 2022; and ensuring the employees' rights to sickness allowance and employment protection when they are absent from work due to their compliance with anti-epidemic requirements, etc. Besides, the Government is reviewing the continuous contract requirement under the Employment Ordinance and will increase the penalties of the occupational safety and health legislation.
Employers in various trades and industries may offer more favourable employment benefits to their employees, having regard to the situations in the labour market, and their own business operations and affordability. In addition, the LD has been actively encouraging employers to adopt good human resource management practices, so as to attract and retain talents, and to enhance the competitiveness of enterprises.
The Government will continue to implement various measures to promote and improve the employment environment, and to encourage more citizens to enter or re-enter the labour market.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:20
Issued at HKT 12:20