Hon KP Chan said that while he was supportive of the proposal to legislate for standard working hours, he concurred that the issue warranted detailed study in view of its complexity and wide implications on business operations. He considered that in addition to basic conceptual issues such as the objective of regulating working hours and whether working hour limits should be set, the working hour system involving specific implementation details, such as its scope of coverage, appropriate exemptions and flexibility arrangements, should be studied.
He also considered that to effectively address the problem of manpower mismatch, the long term manpower planning for various industries would require inter-departmental input and collaboration. He said that some work types (e.g. construction work and elderly care service) were very unpopular among job-seekers because of their job nature, undesirable working condition, long working hours and unattractive remuneration. In his view, the Administration should focus on encouraging the unemployed and people capable of working to keep on searching for jobs, strengthening the employability of local workforce through training and retraining programmes, and promoting economic development so as to create more job opportunities. These were more effective measures to reduce job mismatch.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare responded that:
(a) The Chief Secretary for Administration was the Chairman of the Steering Committee of Population Policy, and the scope of the population policy covered, among others, manpower planning and ageing population. As these issues involved long-term planning and co-ordination of policies that cut across Bureaux, relevant Directors of Bureau were members of the Steering Committee. They would be responsible for shaping specific policies under their purview and steer the departments concerned to implement such policies.
(b) The Administration had been addressing the problems of manpower shortage, aging workers and skill mismatch in the construction industry through various measures. For example, the Finance Committee approved in May 2010 $100 million to the Construction Industry Council (“CIC”) for strengthening the training programmes and further promoting the image of the construction industry. Through various means, including enhanced training, improvement in the working environment at construction sites, enhancement in industrial safety and provision of uniform for workers, more young people had been attracted to join the construction industry. To reinforce its effort to this end, the Administration secured the Finance Committee’s approval in April 2012 of an additional funding of $220 million to further enhance CIC’s training for new entrants and inservice construction personnel.