Legislative Council Panel on Manpower
Government's follow-up action
on the discussion on elderly employment
at the meeting on 22 July 1999
At the meeting of the LegCo Panel on Manpower held on 23.3.1999, the subject of elderly employment was discussed. After the meeting, the Administration has taken a series of follow-up actions. Details are set out in the following paragraphs.
Employment Assistance Measures to the Elderly
2. The Labour Department has introduced a number of special measures to assist the elderly to find work. These measures include:
- setting up special counters at all Local Employment Service offices to save elderly job-seekers from queuing up for service;
- assigning dedicated placement officers to provide job referral service to elderly job-seekers at the offices;
- encouraging elderly job-seekers to use the telephone employment service of the Labour Department to find suitable jobs and obtain referrals for job interview;
- encouraging elderly job-seekers to make use of the Job Matching Programme;
- establishing a dedicated team to canvass vacancies suitable for the elderly;
- assisting elderly job-seekers who have retraining needs to apply for retraining courses;
- ensuring employers recruiting staff through the Department do not impose any restrictive requirements on age; and
- publishing leaflets on the above special services for distribution to the elderly.
3. The Labour Department has also published a booklet titled 'Guide to Good People Management Practices' to remind employers that they should consider capability rather than age when recruiting staff.
Stepping up prosecution of unscrupulous employers
4. The Labour Department enforces labour legislation vigorously to safeguard the rights and benefits of employees, including elderly workers. Labour inspectors carry out inspections to workplaces of various economic sectors to ensure that employers provide their employees with statutory benefits in compliance with provisions under the Employment Ordinance. In 1998, a total of 159 351 inspections to workplaces were conducted. The Labour Department also makes prompt investigations into complaints under the Employment Ordinance and the Employees' Compensation Ordinance. Prosecutions are taken out against substantiated breaches of the said labour legislation.
5. In the first six months of 1999, the Labour Department conducted 78 311 inspections to workplaces and took out 1 563 summonses against employers, resulting in total fines of $2.74 million. The number of inspections conducted in 1996, 1997 and 1998 were 149 779, 158 961 and 159 351 respectively, and 4 870, 4 226 and 5 145 summonses were taken out in the corresponding years. It is evident from the above statistics that the Labour Department has strengthened enforcement and inspections to deter and punish unscrupulous employers. Elderly workers being exploited by their employers are encouraged to report their cases to the Labour Department for the instigation of appropriate action.
Stepping up control on cleansing contractors
6. Some members suggested that the government should step up control on cleansing contractors and questioned the fact that although additional restrictions were included in the cleansing services tender issued by the Housing Department providing that cleansing contractor who had violated the labour legislation would not be permitted to submit tender, the principal contractor has often contracted out the cleansing services, hence causing a loophole for non-compliance of the provision by sub-contractors.
7. Housing Department's views were sought. They advised that all cleansing contracts had stipulated that contractors are not permitted to breach labour legislation. Once the contractor has signed the cleansing contract with the Housing Department, he shall undertake fully responsibility in respect of the contract.
8. According to the Housing Department's statistics, from April 1998 to July 1999, contractors had been prohibited from making tender submissions when illegal workers were found in their workplaces. HD will continue to enforce the provision in a strict manner.
Minimum Wage and Review on Working Hours
9. Some members called for the stipulation of minimum wage and a review on maximum working hours.
10. We would like to reiterate that imposing statutory control over working hours would increase the actual labour cost. It will undermine the self-adjustment mechanism of the labour market, thereby hampering the overall flexibility and productivity of our economy.
11. Our position is that there is no need for Hong Kong to implement a minimum wage system. The reasons behind this are set out in another document forwarded to members.
Survey on Elderly Employment
12. Some members suggested that the Government should conduct a comprehensive survey on elderly employment.
13. The General Household Survey by the Census and Statistics Department provides some statistics on elderly employment. The findings in respect of the first quarter of 1999 are:
- the employment rate for persons aged 60 and over was 95.5%, which was higher than the rate for the entire labour force (93.8%);
- analysed by sex, 83% of employed persons in the age group 60 and over were males. This proportion was higher than that for the entire employed population (60%);
- analysed by educational attainment, about 60% of employed persons aged 60 and over had only primary education and below, while 40% had secondary/matriculation education and above. The corresponding proportions for the entire employed population were 19% and 81% ;
- analysed by economic sector, 32% of employed persons aged 60 and over were engaged in the wholesale, retail and import/export trades, restaurants and hotels sector, 19% in the community, social and personal services sector, 17% in the financing, insurance, real estate and business services sector, and 15% in the manufacturing sector. The corresponding proportions for the entire employed population were similar, at 30%, 23%, 14% and 11%;
- analysed by occupation category, 40% of employed persons aged 60 and over were in elementary occupations, which was higher than the corresponding proportion of 18% for the entire employed population. The proportion of managers and administrators among those employed persons aged 60 and over was 8%, which was the same as that for the entire employed population;
- the median monthly employment earnings of the entire employed population was $10,000, while that of employed persons aged 60 and over was lower, at $7,000. This was probably due to the fact that elderly employed persons generally had relatively lower educational attainment and skill level, and that comparatively more of them were engaged in less skilled and hence lower paid jobs (e.g. building caretakers and cleaners);
- the median hours of work of employed persons aged 60 and over during the seven days before enumeration was 48, which was higher than that of the entire employed population, at 45. This was probably due to the fact that a larger proportion of elderly employed persons was engaged in elementary occupations, which were characterised by long working hours (e.g. building caretakers and cleaners).
14. From the above analysis, it can be seen that the educational attainment and skill level of persons aged 60 and over have some bearing on their employment.
15. The Employees Retraining Board (ERB) also provides retraining services to the elderly job-seekers. They are eligible to apply for all retraining courses offered by the ERB. In 1998-1999, 19 500 retrainees aged 45 or above have completed various retraining programmes. The Hong Kong Council of Social Service, one of ERB's training bodies, also offers an "Elderly Programme" specifically designed for elderly retrainees, which includes training courses on job search skills, basic skills (such as computer application) and job specific skills(such as domestic helpers and building caretakers training). Since 1994, over 6 300 retrainees have graduated from various courses under the "Elderly Programme", and among them, 1 614 completed training in 1998-1999. Up to January 1999, the average placement rate for the elderly retrainees is 63% and their average monthly salary is around $6,400.
16. Apart from providing employment and retraining services to the elderly, the Government also offers financial assistance, medical, health care and residential care services as well as community support services to them.
Education and Manpower Bureau