The recently released Policy Address has highlighted the holistic development of young people by making numerous proposals in areas of employment, education, and whole-person development. One area that I am very concerned about is youth employment. Due to increasing saturation of Hong Kong’s markets, job growth is slowing. Adolescents who lack work experience have limited career choices that can match their interests. The Policy Address has proposed to strengthen employment support for the youth by launching a pilot employment support scheme to attract and retain talent for industries with a keen demand for labour by integrating structured apprenticeship training programmes with clear career progression pathways. The scheme aims to help young people get a foot on the career ladder and feel more confident about their future.
I am also very concerned about the lack of career guidance tailored for local youth, making them clueless about their career development. I am glad that the Policy Address has re-established the positioning of vocational education in our education system to guide the younger generation in choosing their career. The measure can help young people learn the meaning of the Chinese proverb that “ every trade has its masters”. It can also help those who are not interested in studying learn a skill so that they can also contribute to society. I really hope these measures can help the younger generation choose a career that is most suitable for them.
Regarding education for the youth, the Policy Address has finally addressed the lack of opportunities for higher education faced by associate degree holders. It has announced that from the 2015-16 academic year, the intake of senior-year undergraduate places in University Grants Committee-funded institutions will progressively increase by a total of 1000 places. Therefore, 5000 meritorious sub-degree graduates will be able to articulate to subsidized degree programmes each year by the 2018-19 academic year. This is indeed good news for sub-degree students.
Meanwhile, I hope the government can pay more attention to economic diversity’s association with youth development. I have repeatedly suggested measures to develop headquarters economy. The idea is to introduce preferential measures to attract foreign enterprises to base their headquarters or set up offices in Hong Kong. If multinationals set up business in Hong Kong, it will bring immense benefits to our young people. Apart from providing job opportunities to the youth, the companies can help young people gain a better understanding of how multinational corporations operate, thereby broadening their horizons and career prospects.
In addition to headquarters economy, online shopping has become one key development of economic diversification. Internet entrepreneurship does not require much technical skills or capital investment, yet the potential for development is huge. It is thus very suitable for the youth. The government, therefore, should promptly introduce support measures to help young people set up online businesses, so that they can develop their career under a diversified economy.
Apart from youth problems, Hong Kong population issues are my other concerns. The Policy Address 2013 stated that the government must take into account capacity issues when formulating population and other related policies. But the issue is not mentioned in the Policy Address this year. In face of the aging population and the increasing number of new immigrants, the government should formulate a long-term population plan and conduct thorough studies on capacity issue in order to set directions for Population Policy in the long run.
Lastly, I would like to talk about environmental issues. The Policy Address has announced that the government has reached a consensus with the transportation industry to phase out some 82,000 old Euro III or earlier diesel commercial vehicles. The government will start the scheme in March this year to reduce roadside air pollution as soon as possible. For talents working in multinational companies who have refused to work in Hong Kong because of its serious air pollution, I hope that the measure can rebuild their confidence in the city’s environment.
Though the government has made a big step forward in combating air pollution, it still has not made a move regarding solid waste management. Last year, the government faced strong opposition against its plan to extend the Tseung Kwan O Landfill. The Policy Address has only mentioned some supporting measures to alleviate the pressure on landfills, such as reviewing the location of recycling bins and launching a mobile phone application to provide information about waste reduction. But the Policy Address has made no mention of expanding the landfills.
I support landfill extension. If the extension project is delayed further, the waste problem will only worsen. Of course, the government should first conduct thorough consultation with local communities and provide reasonable compensation packages for affected residents. The government should also execute proper measures to minimize negative environmental impacts on the residents nearby. If nothing is done, the government will face profound challenges to expand landfills. This will subsequently cause delays in reaching the waste reduction goal.
In addition, the government should also seek new directions in developing waste incineration in Hong Kong. Last year, I visited waste management facilities in Korea with other lawmakers, and was very impressed by its highly advanced incineration plants. Their incinerators can capture emissions and convert them to energy, thus hugely minimizing their impacts on the environment. I suggest the government to adopt modern incineration technologies and strengthen promotion on the advantages of high-tech incinerators in Hong Kong so that the public will feel more confident that incinerators will not affect their health.
With regards to supporting measures for the recycling industry, I am very pleased to see that the government has finally begun to actively develop the recycling industry. The measures announced in the Policy Address include setting up the Steering Committee to Promote the Sustainable Development of the Recycling Industry to promote the sustainable development of the recycling industry and earmarking $1 billion to launch a Recycling Fund. Basically I support these measures. I hope the government will soon formulate details on use of the fund so that the industry can receive government support and solve their long-term problems, such as high cost, expensive rent, and a big demand for manpower. These measures will not only benefit the recycling industry, but will also strengthen the entire environmental protection industry. I, therefore, hope the government will speed up implementation of the newly announced initiatives.
Finally, the Policy Address has mentioned the introduction of quantity-based charging for municipal solid waste. I hope the Council for Sustainable Development can put forward a fair charging scale that will not place a heavy financial burden on grassroots families. The charging scheme should be enforced across all sectors at different stages. This will enable a gradual implementation of the new charging mechanism to reach the ultimate target of waste reduction.