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CY Leung vows to "unleash the potential of local labour force"

Hong Kong's chief executive Leung Chun-ying has announced new measures to boost Hong Kong's local talent, as well as attract more talent from overseas, in his third annual policy address this week.

New labour measures include a pilot scheme to attract second generation Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents, who have emigrated overseas, to return to Hong Kong.

In his speech on Wednesday, the first post-Occupy, he also vowed to "encourage the extension of the retirement age" as well as review welfare arrangements, provide better support for women returning to the job market and promote employment for the underprivileged.

Leung's annual blueprint on the region's policy was much-awaited, in the aftermath of pro-democracy protests that called for widespread change. The overall message of his address was to "uphold the rule of law, seize the opportunities, make the right choices".

A five-pronged manpower strategy

On the business front, Leung explained Hong Kong's labour force is expected to decline from around 2018. With the need to develop "adequate and quality manpower", he laid out a five-pronged manpower strategy to address the demographic changes.

All five areas highlighted by Leung focus on optimising the local workforce as well as attracting foreign talent.

1. Leveraging the local workforce better: He announced three measures to tap into the existing local workforce, starting with extension of the retirement age. Already in place for civil servants, other employers will now be encouraged to take action on this.

Second, more child care services are on the cards, to support mothers who wish to continue working, in addition to extended hour services. Finally, Leung has also promised to promote employment for the underprivileged.

2. Nurturing the local workforce: Diverse jobs, as well as learning, training and development opportunities are on the horizon for the younger generation. The Task Force on Promotion of Vocational Education, he announced, is identifying ways to promote the attractiveness of vocational education, and is expected to share these by mid-2015.

3. Attracting foreign talent: Not only will Hong Kong target foreigners (including a focus on entrepreneurs), but will also implement a pilot scheme for second generation Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents who have emigrated overseas.

Hong Kong's General Points Test, under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, is slated to be adjusted, in order to "attract a larger pool of young talent with excellent educational background or international work experience."

4. Supporting families: "The Government will consider providing appropriate financial support. We will review the child allowance under salaries tax in the coming Budget," said Leung in the policy statement. 15-year free education may also be rolled out for young parents.

5. Promoting active ageing: Leung has announced concession schemes as well as community programmes for the ageing local society. These include elderly centres, commuting facilities, among others.

Policies on women and working conditions 

Besides the manpower policy, Leung has announced acceptance of the Gender Mainstreaming Checklist developed by the Women’s Commission. Applicable to more than 50 policy areas, all government departments would, going forward, have to refer to the checklist in formulating major initiatives.

The ratio of women appointed to government advisory and statutory bodies should also be raised from 30% to 35%.

"The Government will continue to consolidate the efforts of all parties, and encourage employers to offer part-time jobs which are more popular with women to promote their employment," said Leung in his statement.

In addition to these measures, the chief executive has taken note of local working conditions and promised an increase in the minimum wage to $32.5 per hour, subject to the Council’s approval. In addition, the Standard Working Hours Committee is discussing the issue of working hours.

Download the full 2015 policy address here.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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