Information Paper for the
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Manpower
Major Programme Areas on Employment in
the 1997 Policy Address
This information paper gives a brief outline on the six major programme areas on employment appear in the 1997 Policy Programme of the Education and Manpower Bureau, viz :
Vocational Training and Employee Retraining;Vocational Training and Employee Retraining
Construction Industry Training;
Employees' Rights and Benefits; and
Occupational Safety and Health.
2.In June 1997, we announced the way forward in respect of the recommendations arising from the strategic and organisational review of the Vocational Training Council (VTC). There has been general agreement that the VTC must be able to respond flexibility to meet the evolving needs of the economy. This means that there must be a mechanism in place to adjust the number of student places, and the type and content of courses, according to need.
3.To implement the agreed recommendations, and to provide a viable and attractive vocational education and training route both for secondary students and people in the workforce, the VTC has drawn up a 5-year strategic plan which covers a number of major areas, including :
- the need to strengthen the image of the VTC as a single academic institution, which offers vocational education and training in an integrated way;
- a comprehensive review of the current system of VTC Training Boards and General Committees;
- the introduction of a quality assurance policy;
- the establishment of a Staff Development Office; a Teaching and Learning Centre; and a Curriculum Development Office; as well as a Continuing Professional Education Centre; and
- a review of the system of apprenticeship.
4.We will work with the VTC to modernise their training facilities and expand their training opportunities. As an example of their commitment to flexibility, the VTC has already agreed to provide 720 more places at the technician level in the construction discipline in the 1997-98 academic year to assist in meeting the future manpower needs arising from the Government's expanded housing programme over the next decade.
5.To facilitate the smooth and effective implementation of the strategic plan, the VTC has initiated a resource review, which should facilitate the identification of those courses which are in least/greatest demand, and allow for the redeployment of resources to areas of greatest need.
Construction Industry Training
6.The Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA) plays an instrumental role in meeting the needs of the industry through its three training centres and one management-training and trade-testing centre. The Authority also plays a key role in the working group which has been set up by the Education and Manpower Bureau to plan for the expansion of construction industry training and retraining programmes, and to advise the Government on any specific measures that are required to ensure an adequate labour supply for the industry over the next ten years, to meet future demand arising from the expanded housing programme.
7.The CITA has considerably expanded its training provision in recent years. For example:
- During the 1996-97 training years (ending August) it provided almost 20,000 training places. These include 1,620 full-time training places for Secondary 3 graduates on the Basic Craft training courses, 420 places for Form 5 graduates on Construction Supervision/Technician courses for training/retraining adults who wish to join the industry;
- A total of 2,812 new workers/supervisors was trained during the 1996-97 training year. About 3,400 will be trained in the 1997-98 training year; and
- CITA will increase its training/retraining capacity for adult workers by 484 places annually to help meet the labour shortages in such construction trades as a bar-bending, formwork carpentry, plastering and bricklaying.
8.CITA will also maximise its flexibility to train additional workers, provide enhanced retraining opportunities for adults displaced from other industries who wish to join the construction industry, and will seek to improve the retention rate of its graduates within the construction industry.
9.We have recently completed a comprehensive review of the Employees Retraining Scheme (ERS) with a view to improving its effectiveness in meeting both the requirements of employers and the retraining needs of workers in the light of the latest developments in the labour market. The main thrust of the proposals is that the ERS should primarily focus on providing retraining for the unemployed with no more than lower secondary education and aged 30 or above; it should provide retraining for the employed who need to receive basic skills training to sustain them in employment; and its ambit be extended to cover new arrivals. Some 250 types of courses are currently being provided by 59 training bodies and 134 training centres for around 6,000 retrainees.
10.As regards the extension of the Employees Retraining Scheme to cover new arrivals, a Job Search Skills Course designed specifically for new arrivals has been organised since early 1997. Altogether 48 classes have been run for 765 retrainees and 80% of these graduate retrainees have eventually been placed in jobs. We are now working closely with the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) to ensure the smooth implementation of the recommendations. Efforts are being made, in particular, to restructure and revise the contents of the retraining courses in such a way that they will aim not only at placing retrainees in jobs upon graduation, but also at sustaining their employability in the market. ERB is working closely with both employer groups and training bodies in this regard.
11.We aim to help job-seekers find jobs and help employers find suitable vacancies. To this end, the Labour Department provides a comprehensive range of free employment assistance and counselling services to all job seekers, including new arrivals. These include the Local Employment Service(LES) -- an employment service for all able-bodied job-seekers, the Job Matching Programme -- a personalised employment and counselling service for the unemployed, the Selective Placement Service dedicated for people with a disability and the Special Placement Team for workers wishing to seek jobs in the New Airport and Related Projects. The Department also organises careers guidance activities for young people.
12.The Department has set up an employment and guidance centre for new arrivals in Shaukeiwan which provides a comprehensive range of employment services and guidance tailor-made for new arrivals. Within the short period of 18 September - 14 October, the centre conducted eight briefings and succeeded in placing 40 new arrivals in jobs. We are planning to set up one more similar employment and guidance centre in 1998-99 for new arrivals.
13.Hong Kong's labour relations have generally been very harmonious and we aim to maintain this good record through providing conciliation service to settle labour disputes, promoting the public understanding of labour laws, encouraging good labour management communication and personnel management practices, adjudicating minor employment claims and regulating trade unions.
14.During the coming year, we will strengthen promotion of good communication between employers and employees as well as direct and voluntary consultation at the enterprise level on employment issues. To this end, a special team of 11 officers will be set up within the Labour Department. Its tasks will include the stepping up of the promotion of direct and voluntary consultation between employers and employees. Its programme of activities will include stepping up the promotion of effective communication and good management practices, conducting surveys on the existing channels of communication between employers and employees in Hong Kong, encouraging and assisting target establishments to set up machinery for voluntary consultation and effective communication, drawing up codes of practices/guidebooks on the subject for reference by employers and employees.
15.We will conduct a review of employment conditions of live-in domestic helpers in Hong Kong with a view to assessing whether special arrangements should be provided to regulate their employment. We aim to complete this review around the middle of next year. In addition, we will also review the provisions on sickness benefits and lay-off under the Employment Ordinance to see whether further improvements should be made.
Employees' Rights and Benefits
16.We aim to progressively improve employees' rights and benefits in a way which is commensurate with the pace of Hong Kong's economic and social developments and which strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of employers and employees. To this end, we will continue to put forward all major legislative proposals on labour matters to the Labour Advisory Board--a well-established tripartite consultative forum comprising employers, employees and the Government for consultation before introducing the proposal to the legislature.
17.We introduced a series of improvements to employees' rights and benefits during the past year. Major items include improvements to the rate of sickness allowance, maternity protection provisions, the definition of wages, protection of wage payment, and protection of employees from unreasonable termination of employment and variation of employment contracts.
18.During the coming year, we plan to improve the Pneumoconiosis Ex-Gratia Scheme--an administrative scheme to award monthly ex-gratia payments to persons who were diagnosed before 1981 to be suffering from pneumoconiosis - with a view to aligning its benefit items more closely with those being provided to pneumoconiotics diagnosed to be suffering from the same disease after 1981 under the Pneumoconiosis (Compensation) Ordinance.
19.We plan to introduce a series of improvements to the Occupational Deafness Compensation Scheme as a result of a recently completed comprehensive review of the Scheme. The proposals seek primarily to expand the coverage of the Scheme so as to benefit more employees and to suitably streamline the operation of the Scheme. On 15 October, we introduced the Occupational Deafness (Compensation) (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 1997 into the Provisional Legislative Council for the purpose of giving effect to the various proposals.
20.Arising from the repeal of the women - specific provisions, among which are restriction on working hours under the Women and Young Persons (Industry) Regulations, we will complete a review of the working hours of our workforce with a view to determining whether new regulations applying to both male and female workers should be introduced on this aspect.
Occupational Safety and Health
21.Our policy is to work towards the target of enhancing the occupational safety and health standards of Hong Kong so that our records in these areas are commensurate with our status as a well developed and sophisticated economy. Looking ahead into the next legislative session, we aim to introduce new and amendment legislation on four areas of work :
- mandatory safety training for construction and container handling workers
The provision of safety training to the workers will greatly reduce the chance of industrial accidents at the workplace. To this end we will require, as a start, the provision of safety training to workers in the accident prone construction and cargo handling industries. We will effect the changes through amendments to the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance.
- safety management system for selected industrial undertakings
This is one of the key recommendations of the 1995 Review on Industrial Safety. We will introduce new subsidiary regulations under the FIUO to require proprietors of construction sites and selected industrial undertakings, such as shipyards, employing one hundred or more workers to implement a safety management system. The safety management system will include elements like safety policy, safety plans, safety committee, safety audits or reviews, etc.
- Working in confined spaces and at heights
Industrial accidents involving workers working in confined spaces and at heights are numerous and very often fatal. To help enhancing the safety protection to workers engaged in such works, we will make amendments to update the existing subsidiary regulations to tighten the safety measures and requirements.
- Medical examinations for workers required to handle hazardous substances and agents at work
To enhance the occupational health of workers required to work with hazardous substances and agents, we will introduce a new subsidiary regulation requiring the employer to provide periodical medical examinations to the workers concerned.
22.In the longer term, we will introduce other sets of subsidiary regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance to cover areas such as handling dangerous substances at work, personal protective equipment, etc. We will also introduce new regulations on controlling the competency of operators of earth-moving machines and fork-lift trucks.
Education and Manpower Bureau