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 2003, the Government continued to devote much effort
to facilitating employment. Chaired by the Financial Secretary, the Task
Force on Employment has devised a wide range of measures to boost the
economy and promote employment since its inception in 1998. The Task Force,
comprising senior officials and representatives of the business, employees,
training and academic sectors, serves as a high-level forum to tap the
views of the community on ways to improve the employment situation. It
was expanded in 2002 to include representatives of political parties.
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 114
400 training places (the capacity being more or less the same as
in 2002) to assist eligible workers, especially those displaced or unemployed
ones, to re-enter the labour market.
In addition, the Government has continued its efforts
to assist young people to enhance their employability through the Youth
Work Experience and Training Scheme which provides on-the-job training
of six to 12 months to young people.
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.
In response to the outbreak of SARS and to prepare
for the entry of school leavers into the labour market in the summer,
two employment/training packages, coordinated by the Labour Department,
were introduced in May and July to create a total of 53 550
employment-related and training openings, at the cost of $1.15 billion.
Of these openings, 17 000 were training places offered under
the Skills Enhancement Project to provide trade-specific and generic training
to employees of industries hard-hit by SARS — such as catering,
retail, tourism, hotel, passenger transport, building decoration, real
estate, and airport and related industries.
As part of the SARS-related employment packages, the
'Special Incentive Allowance Scheme for Local Domestic Helpers (LDHs)'
was launched, through the 'Integrated Scheme for LDHs' administered by
the Employees Retraining Board, in June. The incentive scheme aims to
promote the service of LDHs for household cleaning and to address the
mismatch in supply and demand in the LDH market arising from geographical
locations and working hours. A sum of $60 million has been earmarked to
provide an allowance to qualified LDHs who are willing to work in a district
different from the one in which they reside or during 'unsocial hours'
(i.e., 5 pm to 9 am). It is estimated that some 8 000 LDHs
will benefit from the scheme.
To help needy employers in the worst-hit industries
— including the tourism, restaurants, retail and entertainment businesses
— to tide over the difficult time and to preserve jobs, the Government
established a low-interest Loan Guarantee Scheme, with a commitment of
$3.5 billion. The department assisted in administering and publicising
the scheme. A total of 1 802 applications had been received
at the close of applications on July 31. Of these, 1 559
applications with a total loan amount of $499,204,781 were approved. The
successful applicants employed 18 236 staff altogether.
To help resolve labour relations issues arising from
the outbreak of SARS, the Labour Department mapped out enlightened human
resources strategies in collaboration with the various industry-based
tripartite committees and Human Resource Managers' Clubs. The department
also published guidelines and distributed reference materials to employers
and employees through newspapers and the electronic media.