LegCo Paper No. CB(1)694/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/MP/1

LegCo Panel on Manpower

Minutes of meeting
held on Tuesday, 17 December 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon LAU Chin-shek (Chairman)
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon MOK Ying-fan

Members absent :

    Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, OBE, JP
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Public officers attending :

Item IV and V
Mr Joshua LAW, JP
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mr Francis CHENG
Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Item IV
Mr John Sherwin
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security

Item V
Mr Raymond FAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mr CHOW Tung-shan
Executive Director
Employees Retraining Board
Mr Horace Knight
Executive Director
Vocational Training Council

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Polly YEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary(1)3

Staff in attendance :

Ms Connie SZE-TO
Senior Assistant Secretary(1)5

Item IV
Mr Arthur CHEUNG
Assistant Legal Adviser 5

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)443/96-97)

The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 25 November 1996 were confirmed.

II Date and items for discussion for next meeting

Members agreed to advance the next Panel meeting originally scheduled for 27 January 1997 to Monday, 20 January 1997 at 2:30 p.m.

Depending on the progress of discussion of the review on vocational training and re-training services, members agreed that the Panel should continue to discuss the subject at the next meeting. The Chairman also advised that members who wished to propose other discussion item(s) should contact the Panel Clerk.

III Information papers issued since last meeting

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)517/96-97)

The Panel noted that a deputation’s views on an independent panel for employment justice had been issued for members’ general information.

IV Employment of foreign domestic helpers as domestic drivers

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)516/96-97(01), Chinese version of the paper tabled)

Members were concerned that it had become prevalent for local employers to redeploy their foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) to work as domestic drivers and noted a complaint from the Traffic Services Employees Association about working opportunities of local drivers being jeopardised.

In explaining the Administration’s position on the issue, the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS for E&M) advised that under existing policy, FDHs could not take up employment as full-time drivers in Hong Kong. They were contract workers admitted to work for specific employers and it was illegal for FDHs to take up part-time job as drivers for other employers. It was believed that such arrangements could give sufficient protection to local drivers. However, it was the Administration’s view that if the chauffeur duty was incidental to and arising from a FDH’s domestic duties, it was not legally forbidden and did not constitute a breach of the employment contract.

Responding to members’ enquiries on determining whether the chauffeur duty was related to domestic duties or otherwise, DS for E&M and the Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (PAS for S) advised that the definition of "domestic duties" in the Explanatory Notes attached to the Standard Employment Contract for FDHs and that of "domestic servant" under the Employment Ordinance was meant to be illustrative rather than exclusive. It would be prudent to apply a test of common sense in determining whether certain driving duty was domestic-related and each case should be considered on its merits depending on the context and circumstances in which the duty was performed. Looking after employers’ children and driving them to school, for instance, would normally be construed as some form of domestic duties.

Mr James TIEN remarked that it was legitimate for FDHs to perform domestic duties as assigned by employers. He shared the Administration’s view that if the chauffeur duty was incidental to and arising from domestic duties, it should be permitted.

The majority of members present considered that the present policy had failed to safeguard the interests of local drivers. In the absence of a clear definition of permissible domestic duties and any effective means to check abuses by employers, they urged that the policy should be reviewed with a view to prohibiting FDHs from performing any driving duties. The Chairman also cautioned that FDHs were admitted into Hong Kong due to a shortage of local domestic helpers and not drivers.

Addressing members’ concerns, DS for E&M and PAS for S made the following points-

  1. At this stage, the Administration did not consider that there was a significant problem necessitating legislative amendment. If the driving duty was only incidental to domestic duties, it was unlikely that such job would be taken up by local drivers. Moreover, it might cause inconvenience to employers if domestic duties were to exclude driving duties categorically.
  2. The Immigration Department and Labour Department would investigate into complaints of suspected breaches of employment contracts of FDHs or their conditions of stay. Where necessary, legal advice would be sought on whether certain driving duty was incidental to domestic duties or not. Prosecution would be taken against the FDH and/or the employer if an offence was substantiated. Breach of a condition of stay, for example, could result in a maximum fine of $50,000 and two years’ imprisonment.

On the Chairman’s request for information on complaints and prosecution, if any, about FDHs being deployed to work as full-time drivers, PAS for S undertook to look into cases involving breaches of conditions of stay for the past year and revert to the Panel afterwards. If the information revealed that the problem was serious, the Administration would consider whether a policy review on FDHs was necessary.

(ALA5 joined the meeting at this point.)

Responding to the Chairman’s enquiry, ALA5 confirmed that the present definitions of "domestic duties" and "domestic servant" were not exclusive. He further advised that under existing provisions of the employment contract, where the driving duty was incidental to the performance of domestic duties, but not for the purposes of the employer’s business, it would not amount to a breach of contract.

V Review on vocational training and re-training services

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)516/96-97(02), 523/96-97(01) (Chinese version of the paper tabled), LegCo Briefs ref. EMB CR 5/3371/95VIII and EMB CR 4/3/3037/90V, position paper by Mr CHAN Wing-chan tabled)

At the Chairman’s invitation, DS for E&M briefed members on the major recommendations of the reviews on the provision of vocational training and re-training services as follows-

  1. All the skills upgrading courses for the employed and the ancillary retraining courses for the elderly and the disabled now offered under the Employees Retraining Scheme (ERS) should be taken over by the Vocational Training Council (VTC).
  2. The ERS should be more sharply focused on providing retraining for all unemployed persons with educational level below Secondary Three (S3) and aged 30 and above.
  3. The ERS should be extended to cover new immigrants.

He stressed that the Administration had not yet taken a position and would consider public views before formulating detailed proposals on the way forward in early 1997.

On the request by some members and interested parties to extend the consultation period of the review on ERS, DS for E&M advised that the consultancy report on vocational training was released for consultation in September 1996 and submissions from various stakeholders groups as well as the VTC and its staff had been received. As regards public consultation on the review of the ERS, the exercise would end in early January 1997 but the Administration would consider extending the deadline and revert to the Panel after the meeting.


(Post-meeting note: The Administration had decided to extend the consultation period until 3 February 1997. The reply was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)600/96-97.)

In the ensuing meeting, members deliberated on the key recommendations of the reviews.

Charging policies for VTC courses

Addressing Mr LEE Cheuk-yan’s concern about possible increase in VTC course fees as a result of the recommendation to amend the existing charging policies to achieve inter alia better cost recovery, DS for E&M reiterated that the Administration had not taken any decision on the recommendation but agreed that regular review on the fees policy and the current 18% cost recovery rate should be made. Nevertheless, there were certain public views opposing any increase in course fees and urging the Government to take up greater responsibility in the provision of vocational training services.

Quality and effectiveness of training by VTC

Nature of training programmes

Mr LAW Chi-kwong pointed out that VTC courses were generally biased towards male and had failed to meet the needs of female employees who occupied comparable proportion as males in the current workforce.

In response to Mr LAW’s concern, the Executive Director of VTC (ED of VTC) made the following points-

  1. VTC programmes were geared towards meeting the needs of the economy. Courses on clothing manufacture, which had a predominant intake of female students, had been run in the past but had ceased as currently, there was very little demand. Nevertheless, there was a considerable number of female students on courses such as hotel management.
  2. Despite a higher population of male trainees, no barrier was set for female applicants to any courses. There were female trainees undertaking courses where there was a large number of male trainees.

Admission criteria for training programmes

Some members expressed concern about the entry requirement of S3 for training programmes and opined that such requirement might be too stringent as there was a growing number of school leavers and Chinese new immigrants who were below S3 standard. They urged the VTC to apply the criterion flexibly. Mr MOK Ying-fan also suggested that admission tests should be provided for applicants without S3 standard and those who could pass should be admitted. However, Mr Henry TANG cautioned that while considering flexibility in the admission qualification, it was important that programme quality should not be compromised and the graduates should be able to attain a reasonable standard.

In response to members’ concerns, ED of VTC made the following points-

  1. All VTC certificate/diploma, higher certificate/higher diploma courses required applicants to have passed the requisite subjects in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination and craft level courses to have completed at least S3. The educational requirement was essential to ensure that trainees had the ability to follow the course of study.
  2. In the past, the VTC had run remedial courses for trainees attending long-term courses without S3 standard. However, with the introduction of nine-year free and compulsory education in 1978, there were few applicants who had not completed S3. School leavers who did not have S3 standard but wished to pursue vocational training could apply for courses offered by the Construction Industry Training Authority and the Clothing Industry Training Authority.
  3. Most of the short-term VTC courses designed for upgrading skills of employed persons did not have any educational requirement. Applicants already working in the concerned occupations would be admitted to the courses.

DS for E&M added that VTC would need to exercise more flexibility in the admission qualification after taking over the skills upgrading courses hitherto offered by ERS.

Other concerns

Responding to the Deputy Chairman’s comments that the VTC was not responsive to changing economic demands, as shown in the apprenticeship system which was not cost-effective and the relatively low employment rate of VTC trainees, DS for E&M and ED of VTC made the following clarifications-

  1. One of the purposes of the review on the VTC was to examine its activities to identify possible areas for improving its efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
  2. The majority of VTC programmes were not apprenticeship courses. About 70% and 20% of the budget on the technical institutes and the technical colleges respectively were for the provision of courses such as office practice and child care.
  3. About 36% of graduate trainees of apprenticeship courses would pursue further studies to upgrade their skills and qualifications. Employment of graduate trainees was considered satisfactory. They were able to find jobs in the disciplines trained and at the positions commensurate with the level of training.

On Mr Henry TANG’s concern about possible duplication in functions of the proposed Labour Market Analysis Unit with the manpower surveys currently undertaken by the VTC and other Government agencies compiling manpower projections, DS for E&M explained that the proposed unit was to assess future manpower demand through undertaking research and drawing upon relevant published data and reports. It was one of the VTC’s statutory duties to conduct manpower surveys and the VTC had been performing the task effectively. The Administration would take note of Mr TANG’s concern in finalising the proposal.

Proposed changes in the scope of VTC

Members expressed grave concern about the proposal for the VTC to take over the task of providing skills upgrading courses for the employed from the Employees Retraining Board (ERB). They questioned whether the VTC, which was primarily a provider of vocational education, would have the required facilities and expertise to undertake the new role and were concerned about possible duplication of work between the VTC and ERB. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan and Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong were dissatisfied that the reviews had failed to address important issues concerning the proposed division of work between the two institutions, their interface including the bridging-over arrangements on staffing, financing, course fees etc. Mr LEE further remarked that in the absence of these details, the public would not be able to give their views on the proposal. He was concerned that the failure of the Administration to draw up a clear implementation plan in good time might cause confusion in the work of the two institutions at the expense of their current users.

Addressing members’ concerns about the VTC’s ability to take up an enhanced role, ED of VTC clarified that the VTC was already actively involved in providing skill-upgrading courses on subjects like electronic design, banking, insurance, wholesale and retailing for in-service personnel and that VTC was well-placed in undertaking the task.

In explaining the proposed division of work between the VTC and ERB in the manpower vocational training and retraining system and details of the bridging-over arrangements between the two institutions, DS for E&M and ED of VTC advised as follows-

  1. The consultancy studies on the VTC and ERB had clearly defined the respective roles of the two institutions. The ERB would provide better-quality retraining programmes to help a targeted group of unemployed workers. The VTC would continue to provide vocational training while taking over the whole task of skills upgrading.
  2. As regards the types of courses and allowance for trainees, ERS courses would be tailor-made and job-oriented and targeted at the unemployed and the new immigrants. VTC skills upgrading courses would be further developed to meet manpower requirements of the local economy. One striking difference between the ERB and VTC was that a retraining allowance was payable by the former while no allowance was provided for VTC skills upgrading courses.
  3. Concerning the interface between the VTC and ERB, the Administration was committed to ensuring a smooth transition which should be phased over a reasonable period of, say, one year, to allow sufficient time for necessary preparation and without adversely affecting the existing clients of the two institutions. Details would be worked out after taking into consideration public views.
  4. On resources allocation, out of the VTC’s annual expenditure of about $2 billion, $1.62 billion came from Government subvention. The Administration would keep in view the financial position of the VTC and make available adequate resources for its necessary development. It had also proposed to inject $500 million to the ERB to finance the proposed expanded and revamped ERS.

Notwithstanding that a series of public hearings had been arranged by the ERB to collect views on the review of the ERS, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan suggested and members agreed to hold a special Panel meeting on 13 January 1997 at 2:30 p.m. for this purpose as well. It was agreed that invitation would be issued to non-government organisations including training bodies, major trade associations, employers and employees groups. Representatives of the Administration and relevant authorities were also welcome to attend the meeting. In this connection, the Chairman also requested the Administration to provide an information paper to address the concerns raised by members’ for reference before the special meeting.


(Post-meeting note: Notice of the special meeting was issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)552/96-97. The Administration had indicated that at this stage, it was not able to address members’ concerns in detail pending public consultation and the views of the VTC and ERB on the subject. The reply was circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)600/96-97.)

Members also agreed that the Panel should continue to deliberate on the two reviews at its next regular meeting to be held on 20 January 1997.

The meeting ended at 1:00 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
10 January 1997

Last Updated on 21 August 1998