With the advent of a global knowledge economy, Hong Kong is going through a process of economic restructuring. While the transformation holds promises of new opportunities, it also poses challenges for the workforce. Employees therefore have to adapt to the changing environment, and continually upgrade their skills in order to remain competitive in the labour market. The Government for its part is doing everything it can to facilitate employment through training/retraining and enhanced employment services, safeguard employees' rights and benefits, foster harmonious employer/employee relations and promote occupational safety and health in this changing landscape.

MANPOWER is Hong Kong's most treasured asset. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government aims to ensure that there is a dynamic, well-motivated, adaptable and skilful workforce contributing to Hong Kong's economic competitiveness.

    In 2002, the Government continued to devote much effort to easing unemployment. The Task Force on Employment, set up in June 1998 and led by the Financial Secretary, has devised a wide range of measures to create jobs and ease unemployment. In October 2002, the Government revamped the Task Force to widen its representation to include political parties and members of the Legislative Council. This aims at enhancing its role as a high-level forum to tap the views of the community on ways to tackle unemployment.

    In his Policy Address in October 2001, the Chief Executive announced the creation of 30 000 job opportunities in the short term in a number of areas including recreational and cultural facilities, housing estate management, education, environmental protection, public sanitation, greening and health care and welfare services in response to the rising unemployment rate. More than 22 000 jobs had been created by the end of 2002.

    The Government has continued to offer extra help to enhance the employability of the more vulnerable groups in the community. During the year, the Employees Retraining Board offered over 117 500 training places to assist eligible workers, especially those displaced or unemployed ones, representing an increase of 14 per cent over 2001.

    In addition, the Government has continued its efforts to assist young people to enhance their employability by launching the Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme to provide on-the-job training of six to 12 months to 10 000 young people over a period of two years.

    In 2000, the Government conducted a manpower projection to 2005 to gain a clearer picture of Hong Kong's future manpower needs and it is now carrying out a new round in this projection exercise. It will continue to devise measures to provide focused training and thus help upgrade the skills of workers.

    At the same time, the Government recognises the need to promote good employer-employee relations, enhance the rights and benefits of employees in a way commensurate with Hong Kong's socio-economic development, and protect the safety and health of employees at work.