Tag Archives: China

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LCQ13: Employment situation of ethnic minorities

     Following is a question by the Hon Vincent Cheng and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (May 22):
 
Question:
 
     Regarding the employment situation of the ethnic minorities (EMs), will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) of the numbers of EMs in employment, their unemployment rate and underemployment rate, in each of the past three years, together with a breakdown by ethnicity;
 
(2) given that since March 2015, the Labour Department (LD) has added an option of “Ethnic minorities are welcome for the post” in the Vacancy Order Form for employers to complete, so as to facilitate employment officers in matching suitable jobs for EM job seekers and encourage EMs to apply for the posts, how the percentages of the relevant posts being taken up by EMs in each of the three years following the implementation of the aforesaid measure compare with the percentage of all posts being taken up by EMs in each of the preceding three years;
 
(3) as LD will launch a pilot programme in which employment services are provided for EMs under a case management approach through non-governmental organisations, of the details and the implementation progress of the programme;
 
(4) of the latest progress in expanding the range of the language and industry-specific training courses provided by the Employees Retraining Board for EMs;
 
(5) whether it has reviewed the effectiveness of the work of the Government in the past three years on encouraging employers to hire EMs; if so, of the outcome, and whether improvements will be made; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
 
(6) given that a concern group on EM rights and interests has proposed the setting up of an EM employment subsidy and support scheme, under which subsidies will be provided by the Government for employers on a short-term basis, and services such as pre-employment training, employment support and post-employment follow-up will be provided for EMs through relevant organisations, whether the Government has explored the feasibility of the proposal; if so, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:
 
President,
 
     My response to the question raised by the Member is set out below:
 
(1) According to the 2016 Population By-census conducted by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), statistics of the working population, unemployed population and unemployment rate of ethnic minorities (EMs) (which refer to persons of non-Chinese ethnicity) are set out at the Annex.  The figures exclude foreign domestic helpers.  C&SD does not have the relevant statistics on underemployment rate.  Given the lower degree of accuracy in the unemployment estimates derived from the 2016 Population By-census (Note), the unemployment-related statistics of EMs are for general reference only and should be interpreted with caution.  C&SD does not have the relevant statistics for 2017 and 2018.
 
(2) Since March 2015, the Labour Department (LD) has added an optional field of “Ethnic minorities are welcome for the post” in its Vacancy Order Form for employers to fill in so as to facilitate employment officers to match EM job seekers to suitable jobs and encourage them to apply for the posts.  Job seekers (including EMs) may be placed into employment either through LD’s referral service or by direct application to employers who advertise vacancies via LD.  Currently, the vast majority of vacancies advertised through LD (including those indicating that “Ethnic minorities are welcome for the post”) provide employers’ contact details.  Job seekers may obtain information on job vacancies through channels such as the Interactive Employment Service website and its mobile application, vacancy search terminals installed at various locations across the territory and large-scale job fairs without registration with LD, and make direct application to employers.  Job seekers (including EMs) who are placed into employment through direct application are not required to report their employment status to LD.  LD therefore does not have the percentage of the relevant posts being taken up by EMs.
 
(3) To further strengthen the employment support for EM job seekers, LD will launch a pilot programme in conjunction with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide employment services for EM job seekers through a case management approach so as to utilise NGOs’ community network, expertise in case management and experiences in serving EMs.  The commissioned NGOs have to provide one-stop employment support services for EM job seekers through a case management approach so as to reduce their barriers to employment.  In addition to canvassing vacancies suitable for EMs and providing support in their job search, these NGOs will also provide post-placement follow-up services for EMs and their employers, such as assisting the employees to adapt to the new working environment, fostering both parties’ understanding of each other’s work expectations and practices, etc.  LD will carefully consider the views of stakeholders, draw up other details of the pilot programme and conduct the tender exercise as soon as possible.  The pilot programme is expected to be launched in 2020, which will be on a three-year pilot initially.
 
(4) Employees Retraining Board (ERB) has expanded the range of language and industry-specific training courses dedicated for EMs in 2019-20.  It has added two new dedicated Chinese language courses at Qualifications Framework Level 2, which results in a total of 14 dedicated Chinese language courses covering vocational Chinese (reading and writing), Cantonese and Putonghua.  ERB offers dedicated courses for EMs covering vocational training for 10 industry categories, namely “Property Management & Security”, “Electrical & Mechanical Services”, “Construction & Renovation”, “Beauty Therapy”, “Hairdressing”, “Social Services”, “Business”, “Catering”, “Hotel”, and “Tourism”.  ERB will consult its focus group on training to explore developing more suitable dedicated courses in the above industry categories, tentatively targeting at the categories of “Electrical & Mechanical Services” and “Construction & Renovation”.

(5) LD has been proactively promoting the working abilities of EMs among employers through various channels and making ongoing efforts to canvass vacancies suitable for EM job seekers through its employer network to enhance their employment opportunities.  From 2016 to 2018, LD organised six large-scale inclusive job fairs and 36 district-based inclusive job fairs at which job seekers, including EMs, could submit job applications and attend interviews with employers on the spot.  LD also organised experience sharing sessions for employers, during which NGOs serving EMs were invited to brief employers on the cultures of EMs and the skills to communicate with them to enhance their understanding in this regard.  In addition, as mentioned in part (2) of the reply, since March 2015, LD has added an optional field of “Ethnic minorities are welcome for the post” in its Vacancy Order Form for employers to fill in.  From 2016 to 2018, a total of 15 158 employers who advertised vacancies via LD indicated that EM job seekers were welcome to apply for the posts.
 
     LD reviews its operation in providing employment and recruitment services for job seekers and employers on a continuous basis, and introduces adjustments and enhancements in a timely manner.  As mentioned in part (3) of the reply, LD will launch a pilot programme for EM job seekers.  The NGOs engaged will help LD proactively canvass vacancies suitable for EMs, and strengthen its post-placement follow-up services for EMs and their employers.
 
(6) At present, LD administers various special employment programmes such as the Youth Employment and Training Programme, the Employment Programme for the Elderly and Middle-aged and the Work Trial Scheme, etc. to encourage employers, through the provision of financial incentives, to take on job seekers (including EMs) with various employment difficulties and provide them on-the-job training to enhance their employability.  LD will continue to strengthen the employment services for EM job seekers, such as implementing the abovementioned pilot programme to provide employment support services for EM job seekers, including post-placement follow-up services, in conjunction with NGOs.
 
Note: Enumerators need to acquire a full understanding of the labour force framework for collecting information related to unemployment.  However, a large number of temporary field workers were employed to undertake the enumeration work in the 2016 Population By-census, and they could not be expected to have a full grasp of the relevant knowledge and the required skills in asking screening questions.  Thus, the accuracy of the unemployment information gathered would be lower. read more

LCQ21: Mobile applications developed by Government and relevant organisations

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (May 22):
 
Question:
 
     The Government has been committed to taking forward innovation and technology in recent years.  Apart from the provision of a subsidy of as much as $4.52 million for mobile application (app) developers through the Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living, various government departments and relevant organisations have also actively launched apps for publicity and information sharing.  However, it has been reported that among the 200-odd apps launched by the Government and relevant organisations during the period between 2010 and 2017, 107 apps costing a total of as much as $23 million of public money have now been decommissioned.  At the same time, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, on many occasions, developed apps at high cost for one-off publicity, but some of the apps only had several hundreds of downloads.  For instance, an audio guide app launched by the Department in 2016 in support of a project of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum operated for just three months, but cost $180,000 of public money.  Some members of the public have criticised that some apps lack functionality and provide only text information, thus failing to attract members of the public to download, and that the Government’s development of such apps is like “pouring money down the drain”.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) of the current total number of apps developed by the Government and relevant organisations which are available for download by members of the public, and set out by name of app (i) the policy bureaux/departments/organisations undertaking the development and (ii) the amount of annual recurrent expenditure incurred;
 
(2) whether it has compiled statistics on (i) the monthly number of active users of each of the apps mentioned in (1) and (ii) its percentage in the cumulative number of persons who have downloaded the app; if so, of the figures for the past three years; if not, the reasons for that;
 
(3) whether it has reviewed the reasons for poor download rates of some apps; of the conditions under and the criteria based on which the authorities determine whether an app should be decommissioned; given that a large number of apps which cost considerable public money to develop have been decommissioned, whether the authorities have evaluated if such situation will affect public confidence in the effective use of public money by policy bureaux/departments/organisations;
 
(4) whether the app called “My Kowloon East” (MyKE) which was developed by the Energizing Kowloon East Office satisfies the conditions or criteria for decommissioning mentioned in (3); if so, whether it will immediately decommission the app;
 
(5) whether the various policy bureaux are currently developing or have plans to develop new apps; if so, of the details; of the criteria for deciding whether to approve the development of an app;
 
(6) whether the authorities will, prior to approving the development of apps in future, formulate apps development guidelines stipulating that the apps must take into account elements such as “user experience”, “user-centricity” and practicality, with a view to ensuring that such apps have high download and usage rates; and
 
(7) whether the authorities have specified in the contracts awarded to app developers that the developers are required to pay compensations to the authorities in the event that the apps have not been successfully developed, have not been launched on schedule or have varied greatly in quality, so as to ensure proper use of public money?
 
Reply:
 
     After consulting the relevant policy bureaux / government departments (B/Ds), the reply for each part of the question is provided as follows:
 
(1) & (2) As of end April 2019, B/Ds provided a total of 85 mobile applications (apps) for download by the public.  The annual recurrent expenditure and total number of downloads of these mobile apps are set out at Annex A.  Individual B/Ds will, from time to time, collect data on the number of monthly active users and the total number of downloads.  The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) does not maintain information in this regard.
 
     In addition, relevant government organisations provide a total of 52 mobile apps for download (Annex B).  The OGCIO do not have statistics on their annual recurrent expenditure, the number of active users and the total number of downloads.
 
(3) There are various reasons behind whether the number of downloads of a mobile app is high or low, for example, the target user group can be small in size (such as mobile apps for the visually impaired or overseas investors), or the public can obtain services through other channels (such as departmental websites, etc.).  In deciding whether their mobile app should be decommissioned, B/Ds will consider factors such as its download rate, user feedback on the app, whether the mobile app has an on going demand, whether the user needs should be met by other mobile apps or e-government websites.  In the past two years, B/Ds have decommissioned some outdated mobile apps to save the maintenance expenditures involved.
 
(4) According to information provided by the Development Bureau (DEVB), the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) of DEVB launched the “My Kowloon East” mobile app to provide a platform for sharing real-time data to promote smart city development.  These real-time data include vacant hourly parking spaces and real-time data collected from the testing of various proof-of-concept projects.  As of end April 2019, the total number of downloads of this mobile app was around 9 600, which may be related to its focused application for the Kowloon East area while its number of downloads surged by 25% in 2018-19.  EKEO will continue to review the app regularly, improve its design and functionality in response to user needs, and further promote its new features to encourage the public to download and use it.
 
(5) The Water Supplies Department (WSD) and OGCIO plan to develop new mobile apps in 2019-20.  Details are as follows:
 
(a) The WSD plans to launch the “H2OPE Centre” mobile app in the second quarter of 2019.  The H2OPE Centre is a new educational activity centre set up by the WSD.  The centre will highlight through various interactive games and exhibits educational messages about water resources in Hong Kong as well as saving and conserving water.  The mobile app will support the establishment of the H2OPE Centre by providing booking and guided tour functions to facilitate visitors to participate in the Centre’s activities.

(b) To tie in with the implementation of “Electronic Identity” (eID), the OGCIO will launch the eID mobile app in mid-2020 to enable Hong Kong residents to register eID via personal mobile devices.  After successful registration, users can use the eID mobile app for identity authentication and conducting online transactions with the Government and commercial organisations.
 
(6) The amended “Practice Guide for Developing Mobile Apps” published by the OGCIO in November 2018 stipulates that B/Ds are required to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the mobile app; set the objectives and understand the needs of target user groups before developing an app.  They are also required to conduct appropriate publicity to enable target users to understand the objectives and usage of the app.  In addition, the OGCIO will regularly review the development of mobile apps by B/Ds and, subject to the nature and target user groups of these mobile apps, request B/Ds to consider decommissioning the mobile apps that have been launched for some time but recorded fewer than 10 000 downloads.
 
(7) B/Ds will set out the service scope, system and app requirements (including functional and security requirements) and the project schedule when awarding contracts for the development of mobile apps.  The concerned B/D will also perform testing and acceptance.  If the implementation of the project cannot meet the contract requirements, the Government will handle it according to the contract terms, including claims for compensation, etc. read more

LCQ8: Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Kin-por, and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Michael Wong, in the Legislative Council today (May 22):
 
Question:
 
     The Government has allocated $2.5 billion to implement the “Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme” (LIMSS), which is administered by the Urban Renewal Authority. Under LIMSS, those residential or composite buildings whose average rateable values of the domestic units therein do not exceed the prescribed amount are eligible for subsidies on modernising aged lifts not meeting the current technical standards. LIMSS is open for the first-round applications from March 29 to July 31 this year. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1)  of the current number of buildings eligible for joining LIMSS, and the number of buildings for which applications have been received so far;
 
(2)  whether it has compiled statistics on the current number of aged lifts which have to be replaced completely as they do not meet today’s safety standards of lifts, as well as the average age of the buildings in which such lifts are located;
 
(3)  how the authorities publicise LIMSS; and
 
(4)  notwithstanding that for a building for which an owners’ corporation has not been formed and an owners’ organisation is not in place, an application for the LIMSS may be still made by a minimum of two owners who have been authorised by all owners of the building, but the authorisation of all owners cannot be secured for some of this type of buildings (e.g. as some of the owners are out of town and cannot be reached), how the authorities provide assistance to the owners of such buildings?
 
Reply:
 
President,
 
     To enhance safety of aged lifts so as to further safeguard public safety, the Government has launched a $2.5 billion Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme (LIMSS) over six years starting from the 2019-20 financial year to promote lift modernisation in the community through provision of financial incentive with appropriate professional support to building owners in need. The scheme focuses on aged lifts that have not been equipped with safety devices meeting the latest standards, and priority will be set based on risk assessments. In consideration of the capacity of the industry, we plan to modernise about 5 000 aged lifts in phases in 6 years so as to avoid inflating the market price for the works. The Government has commissioned the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to be the administrative agent for the LIMSS.
 
     Under the LIMSS, approved applications can receive a subsidy of 60 per cent of the total cost of the lift modernisation works for each lift, including the fee of consultants (note) engaged by participating buildings (at a cap of $20,000 per lift), subject to a total subsidy cap of $500,000 per lift. In addition, eligible elderly owner-occupiers aged 60 or above can receive a subsidy, for one property under their ownership, of the full cost of the lift modernisation works that they need to contribute, subject to a cap of $50,000. The first-round application for the LIMSS started on March 29 for closing on July 31. Eligible applicants will be notified of their priorities by the fourth quarter of 2019. As some building owners may need more time to co-ordinate and reach consensus amongst themselves for taking part in the LIMSS, the scheme has a second round of application with details to be announced later.
 
     Our reply to the questions about the LIMSS is as follows:
 
(1) According to the application criteria for the LIMSS, we estimate that around 13 000 lifts are eligible for the scheme, involving about 4 000 buildings. As of May 16, the URA has received 58 applications, involving about 400 lifts.
 
(2) At present, there are about 68 000 lifts in Hong Kong, of which about 80 per cent have not been equipped with devices of the latest safety requirements. Although lifts installed and put into service in different years have met the technical requirements at the time of their installation, with rapid technological advancements in recent years, modern lifts are equipped with more comprehensive safety devices than the aged ones. Therefore, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) promulgated the “Guidelines for Modernising Existing Lifts” in 2011. These guidelines introduce measures to enhance safety of aged lifts and recommend retrofitting of safety devices in order to uplift the safety of the lifts. When the responsible persons for aged lifts plan to modernise their lifts, apart from considering to install additional safety devices, they can also replace the entire lifts to enhance safety, reliability and comfortability having regard to the operating conditions of the lifts. As the conditions of each lift are different, the feasibility of implementing different modernisation solutions and the need for replacing the entire lift would require on-site assessment by registered lift contractors or relevant engineering consultants. Therefore, the EMSD does not have information on buildings requiring replacement of the entire lifts and the average age of such buildings.
 
(3) To facilitate the public and building owners to understand the LIMSS, the URA issued two batches of letters to target buildings in January and March this year respectively to introduce the scheme and invite representatives of owners to attend 11 briefings held in April and May in different districts.
 
     In addition, the URA has used various channels to launch a series of publicity events for the scheme, including advertising in TV, radio, newspapers, etc. At district level, the URA has contacted all 18 District Councils for arranging briefing on the scheme in the council meetings. At the same time, with the assistance of 11 non-government organisation (NGO) partners, the URA is approaching target buildings in various districts and assisting their owners in making application for the scheme, with a view to promoting the LIMSS to the public and building owners at different facets.
 
     The public can visit the URA’s website – “Building Rehabilitation Platform” at www.brplatform.org.hk for details of the LIMSS. They can download the LIMSS application form and notes from the website or apply directly for the scheme through the website. For further details or enquiry about the scheme, the public can call the hotline 3188 1188 for assistance.
 
(4)  In order to assist buildings without owners’ corporation (OC) or “3-nil” buildings to join the scheme and organise the modernisation works, the URA has sought legal advice and the following suggestions have been made according to the relevant provisions in the Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC):
 
     If the DMC has expressly stated the following provisions, building owners may convene owners’ meetings to resolve the carrying out of modernisation works according to the DMC provisions:
 
(i) resolutions on common areas repair, maintenance and improvement can be passed at owners’ meetings; and
(ii) such resolutions are legally binding on all owners of the building.
 
     If the DMC has not expressly stated items (i) and (ii) above, the resolutions concerned shall only be deemed valid with unanimous consensus by all building owners. As the DMC is a document legally binding all building owners, it may lead to legal proceedings if building owners fail to comply with it. Therefore, building owners must follow the requirements of the DMC to apply for the scheme and organise the works.
 
     Meanwhile, the URA has proactively contacted owners of such buildings to inform them whether their DMCs have the above provisions so as to facilitate their consideration of forming OCs to join the scheme.
 
     Furthermore, the URA has been encouraging building owners to form OCs for organising repair and maintenance works. Formation of the OC will not only facilitate building owners to reach consensus in organising such works, but also the subsequent maintenance of lifts. If building owners intend to form an OC, they must convene owners’ meetings in accordance with the Building Management Ordinance (Cap. 344). In the meeting for reaching consensus to form an OC, building owners should agree to join the LIMSS and nominate at least two building owners as the applicant’s representatives, and to submit the application form and all supporting documents to the URA by the deadline of the first-round applications (i.e. by July 31, 2019). After successful formation of the OC, the OC shall submit the relevant meeting minutes and a copy of the Certificate of Registration to the URA by January 31, 2020. If an OC fails to submit all the required documents by the above deadline, the application will be automatically arranged for processing in the second-round applications. If the OC still cannot submit all the required documents eventually, the application will be treated as a withdrawal by the applicant.
 
     To encourage building owners to form OCs to carry out the relevant works, the URA offers small-value financial subsidy to those buildings with OCs successfully formed. Besides, the URA has also partnered with NGOs in a number of focal districts with numerous aged buildings to assist building owners in forming OCs to carry out lift modernisation works if needed.
 
Note: The LIMSS provides free consultancy services to each successful application. The services include scope assessment, cost estimation (for budgeting purpose), tender document preparation based on standard template of tender documents, tendering through the URA’s e-tendering platform, tender evaluation (limited to offering technical advice), works supervision and contract management associated with the lift modernisation works. Nevertheless, building owners may engage their own consultants to provide the above services. The Government will also subsidise the consultant fees, at a cap of $20,000 per lift. read more