Speech of the Hon KP Chan on livelihood policies on the motion of thanks for the Policy Address at the Legislative Council meeting on October 27, 2010 (Synopsis)
• Despite a prospering economy, poverty in Hong Kong has risen to record high. The Government is falling behind in redressing serious fundamental imbalance of the economy. This year’s Policy Address lacks insight in the development of Six Industries of clear advantages. Moreover, the Government lacks comprehensive population policy and supplementary measures. As a result, the pool of low-skilled and low-educated worker is enlarging to further widen the wealth gap.
• In light of an overheating property market, rising rental and surging prices, ordinary people are suffering from falling living standard. In Hong Kong, people are never against the rich. The crux of problem is that many of them could not foresee better living, though hard-working day after day. Some are even reclining into poverty. People are dissatisfied with the Government rather than the business sector. Widening wealth gap is the primary source of social tension that has made governance ineffective in recent years.
• In the Policy Address, several measures are put forward to narrow the wealth gap like textbook assistance and transport subsidy. We are facing structural problems of the economy that could hardly be resolved by just short-term measures. The proposed minimum wage could not totally resolve the issue of employed-poor. The Government should review and improve existing social welfare and comprehensive assistance systems. The Government should also replace the old philosophy of providing welfare relief to the working class with new measures of encouraging employment. For instance, negative income tax should be considered to support those employed-poor in the working class.
• The Government should further differentiate between poverty-of-the-employed and social welfare, and deal with them separately. The employed-poor and unemployment should be the responsibility of the labour department. The aged, underprivileged, invalid and handicapped as well as the unemployable should be the responsibility of the welfare department instead.
• The influx of low-skilled and low-educated workers under economic transformation and current population policy could only be rectified with coordinated efforts. The Government should analyze the changing population structure, plan the sectoral development and develop the labour market accordingly. The Government should also propose specific and matching measures including training in support of its population policy.
• Another cause of poverty is an aging population. After over 10 years of operation, people have realized that the Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme has many shortcomings and they are calling for improvements. No matter what might be done to enhance the Scheme, they would not resolve several structural problems that are socially significant. Specifically, it could not satisfy the need of those who are low income, underprivileged and approaching retirement. In my view, we could no longer afford to evade the problem of aging population. The Government should act now, before the situation gets even worse and while public resources still permit, and look into universal retirement protection system in preparation for the future.
• I fully subscribe to an agenda in the Policy Address that the Government will continue to mobile the community through “Happy Family Campaign” and will launch a “Family Friendly Company Award Scheme” in recognition with a view to encouraging the business sector to promote family core values and to fostering an environment conducive to harmonious family relationship. It is my wish that the Government would take the lead to formulate new policy on new occupational culture of work/life balance under new thinking with a view to encouraging industries to put into practice more flexible working hours as well as other measures for better work/life balance.
• Meanwhile, as effective means of improving quality of life of workers, I ask the Government to look into and decide early on legislating for standard work hour under an overriding consideration that business environment and competitiveness of Hong Kong would not be compromised.