Chapter 1: Highlights of the Year 2009

1.1

As a result of the global tsunami and thus a slowdown in the Hong Kong economy, the local employment market suffered a heavy blow in the first half of 2009. However, in the second half of the year, the Hong Kong economy exhibited much resilience. The unemployment rate, having deteriorated notably in early 2009 and peaked at 5.4% in the second quarter, came down gradually to 4.9% in the fourth quarter. We will closely monitor the labour market situation and continue to enhance our employment services on all fronts, especially in netting suitable vacancies from the market and rendering assistance to job-seekers. In the year, we launched a series of new and enhanced measures to provide employment support for job-seekers and to better help the less competitive find work.

 

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Employment Services

Enhanced Employment Services

1.2

To help the unemployed re-enter the labour market and respond speedily to the recruitment needs of employers, the Labour Department has put in extra efforts in organising more employment promotion activities at various locations across the territory. A total of 22 large-scale job fairs, 224 mini-job fairs and 26 district-based employment promotion activities were organised in the year.

 
Career Seminar at the Property Management Industry Job Fair co-organised by the Labour Department and the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies at the Olympian City in Tai Kok Tsui.
Career Seminar at the Property Management Industry Job Fair co-organised by the Labour Department and the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies at the Olympian City in Tai Kok Tsui.
 

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1.3 In face of the financial tsunami, the Labour Department set up its first industry-based Recruitment Centre for the Catering Industry in February 2009 to provide tailor-made job-matching service and on-the-spot interview arrangements for catering establishments and job-seekers. In 2009, catering employers offered 18 960 job vacancies for the centre, and a total of 14 185 job-seekers attended on-the-spot interviews there.
 

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1.4

The Labour Department adopts a proactive approach to providing employment assistance to those made redundant during the financial crisis. In major business closure or redundancy cases, we set up enquiry hotlines and special counters at our Job Centres to provide priority job referral and job matching services to the affected employees. Despite the severe challenge on the local employment market, the Labour Department still secured 593 853 vacancies from the private and public sectors and achieved 120 870 placements in 2009.

 

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Employment Assistance to the Middle-aged and People with Disabilities
1.5 The middle-aged and people with disabilities (PWDs) are amongst the most vulnerable groups of job-seekers during times of economic downturn. To strengthen the comprehensive and timely employment assistance and support to them, the Labour Department enhanced the Employment Programme for the Middle-aged and the Work Orientation and Placement Scheme from 29 June 2009. Under the enhanced measures, the financial incentives to employers were increased and the subsidy periods were extended so as to encourage employers to take on middle-aged job-seekers and PWDs.
 

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Strengthening Employment and Training Support for the Youth
1.6 The Labour Department is determined to promote youth employment. In the year, various measures were adopted to promote the employability of the young people.
 

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1.7 To proactively assist young people in navigating their career journey, in September, the Labour Department enhanced and integrated the Youth Pre-employment Training Programme (YPTP) and the Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme (YWETS) into a 懀hrough-train*programme *㛝PTP ‧ YWETS**to provide seamless and comprehensive training and employment support to young school leavers aged 15 to 24 with educational attainment at sub-degree level or below.
 

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Special Programme for University Graduates
1.8 University graduates also faced employment difficulty amidst the financial tsunami. In August, we launched the Internship Programme for University Graduates to encourage enterprises to offer local and Mainland internship opportunities for university graduates of 2008 and 2009, with a view to broadening their horizons and helping them gain experience so that they would be better equipped for the employment market following the economic recovery.
 
Employers, participating tertiary institutions and other stakeholders joining hands with the Government to launch the Internship Programme for University Graduates.
Employers, participating tertiary institutions and other stakeholders joining hands with the Government to launch the Internship Programme for University Graduates.
 

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Labour Relations

Promoting harmonious Labour Relations

1.9 From late 2008 to the first half of 2009, the economy of Hong Kong experienced a setback in face of the financial tsunami, resulting in a spate of business closures, insolvencies and redundancies. The Labour Department adopted proactive measures to alleviate the impact on labour relations. We worked closely with employers' and employees' groups to foster harmonious labour relations, proactively monitored enterprises prone to be affected so as to defuse potential disputes and provided timely conciliation to help employers and employees resolve differences. In 2009, the Labour Department handled a total of 143 labour disputes and 24 305 claims. The success rate of conciliation was maintained at a high level of 71.5 per cent. The average waiting time for conciliation meetings was 3.3 weeks in the year. Besides, the number of working days lost as a result of labour disputes in Hong Kong remained to be among the lowest in the world.
 

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Stepping Up Enforcement Against Wage Offences

1.10

In 2009, the Labour Department sustained its all-out efforts to combat wage offences. Territory-wide inspection campaigns targeted at offence-prone trades were launched. To help step up enforcement against wage offences, we collected intelligence on non-payment of wages in various industries through an early warning system in collaboration with trade unions. The department conducted in-depth investigation into suspected wage offences and employed veteran ex-police officers to strengthen the investigative work and collection of intelligence to facilitate speedy prosecution.

We continued to step up prosecution against employers and responsible persons of companies for wage offences. We also strengthened our educational and promotional efforts to remind employers of their statutory obligation to pay wages on time and to encourage employees to lodge claims promptly and come forward as prosecution witnesses.

With rigorous enforcement, a total of 1 314 convicted summonses on wage offences were secured in 2009. This represented an increase of 37 per cent compared with the 958 convictions in 2008. Four company responsible persons and one employer were jailed or given suspended sentences for wage defaults. In addition, eight company directors were imposed community service orders due to wage offences. An employer was fined $560,000 for committing wage offences.

 

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Enhancing Good People Management Practices and Harmonious Labour Relations

1.11 To promote effective labour management communication and good people management practices, we organised various promotional activities including seminars, talks, exhibitions and issued publications for employers, employees, human resources professionals and members of the public. In September 2009, a large-scale seminar on employer-employee collaboration in turbulent times and family-friendly employment practices (FFEP) was held. A booklet on good people management measures and FFEP was also published in the year to showcase exemplary examples in the implementation of various best practices in the workplace.
 
A large-scale seminar was organised to encourage employer-employee collaboration and family-friendly employment practices.
A large-scale seminar was organised to encourage employer-employee collaboration and family-friendly employment practices.
 

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Employee Rights and Benefits

Vigorous Enforcement against Illegal Employment

1.12 The Labour Department collaborated with the Police and the Immigration Department to clamp down on illegal employment activities. A total of 217 joint operations were mounted in the year. We also widely publicised the complaint hotline (2815 2200) to encourage the public to report illegal employment activities.
 

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Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW)
1.13 The Government introduced the Minimum Wage Bill into the Legislative Council (LegCo) on 8 July 2009. This represented a significant milestone and breakthrough in protecting the well-being of our grassroot workforce. Our aim was to design an optimal SMW regime which would provide a wage floor to forestall excessively low wages without, at the same time, unduly affecting our labour market flexibility, economic growth and competitiveness as well as causing significant adverse impact on the job opportunities of our vulnerable workers. LegCo had set up a Bills Committee to examine the Bill and eight meetings were held in 2009.

The Provisional Minimum Wage Commission (PMWC), an independent advisory body established in February 2009, was tasked to recommend to the Chief Executive the initial SMW rate on the basis of an evidence-based approach with a view to ensuring a sensible balance between forestalling excessively low wages and minimising the loss of low-paid jobs while sustaining Hong Kong's economic growth and competitiveness. The PMWC comprises a Chairperson and 12 Members drawn from the labour sector, business community, academia and relevant government departments. The Chairperson and all the non-official Members were appointed on an ad personam basis. The Labour Department is responsible for providing secretariat support to the PMWC.
 

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Safeguarding the Rights of Employees of Government Service Contractors
1.14 We conducted vigorous inspections to workplaces of non-skilled workers employed by government service contractors in order to protect their statutory rights and benefits under labour laws. In the year, 696 inspections were conducted. We took out prosecution against contractors whenever there was sufficient evidence of breach of the labour laws. Two contractors were convicted in the year. Under the concerted effort of the Labour Department and procuring departments in stepping up monitoring and enforcement, the situation of contractors contravening the labour laws has greatly improved.
 

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Applications for Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund Continued to Go up
1.15 The Labour Department continued its all-out efforts in clamping down at source on employers evading their wage liabilities, thus preventing wage defaults from developing into claims on the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund. However, with the continued impact of the financial tsunami, the number of applications for the fund increased from 6 448 in 2008 to 7 260 in 2009. In 2009, the fund registered a surplus of $259 million, down from $371 million in 2008.
 

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Safety and Health at Work

Safety of Repair, Maintenance, Alteration and Addition (RMAA) Works

1.16 There has been a rising trend in industrial accidents related to RMAA works in recent years. With the introduction of the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme, the Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme, the special operation to remove abandoned signboards and various sponsorship schemes for maintenance of dilapidated buildings by the Administration, the volume of RMAA works is expected to increase.

To enhance the safety performance of RMAA works, the Labour Department continued to intensify enforcement actions to deter unsafe acts by further stepping up inspections of work sites on normal working days, at night and during holidays. Territory-wide blitz campaigns on RMAA works with emphasis on work-at-height and use of electricity were also launched. In these special exercises, 57 suspension/improvement notices were issued and 58 prosecutions were taken out.

On the educational and promotional front, we organised in 2009 a series of intensive promotion and publicity campaigns, targeting work-at-height and RMAA works to arouse the safety awareness of all parties involved. These included continuing the two-year publicity campaign launched in late 2008 to remind workers to work safely and not to take risk with their lives and their families*future.

We also partnered with the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC), District Councils/District Offices, Safe and Healthy Communities in various districts and the property management sector to organise publicity and promotional activities to promulgate work-at-height and RMAA works safety at the district level.

The Labour Department continued to cooperate with the OSHC to operate the Sponsorship Scheme for Work-at-height Fall Arresting Equipment for Renovation and Maintenance Work for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to assist contractors and employers in need to purchase suitable fall protection equipment to improve the safety standard of work-at-height.
 
Giant banner displayed at the external wall of government offices at various districts to promote RMAA works safety.
Giant banner displayed at the external wall of government offices at various districts to promote RMAA works safety.
 

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Safety Award Schemes
1.17 Two safety award schemes were organised for the catering and construction industries in the year to inculcate a safety culture and to enhance the safety awareness of employers, employees and their families. The schemes featured a variety of activities which included organising safety performance competitions, roving exhibitions, safety quizzes and award presentation ceremonies cum fun days, conducting site visits, producing radio programmes and CD-ROMs as well as broadcasting nnouncements in the Public Interest*and promotional films on television/radio and oadShow*
 
Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme 2008/2009 -- Award Presentation Ceremony.
Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme 2008/2009 -- Award Presentation Ceremony.
 
Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme 2008/2009 -- Award Presentation Ceremony.
Catering Industry Safety Award Scheme 2008/2009 -- Award Presentation Ceremony.
 

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Prevention of Human Swine Influenza A/H1N1
1.18 In the light of the outbreak of human swine influenza A/H1N1 in May, we activated our departmental mobilization plan to step up inspections of workplaces at a higher risk of infection, including hospitals, clinics, elderly homes, pig farms, slaughterhouses, workplaces of cleansing contractors, boundary control points, restaurants, and schools suspended because of outbreak of the infection, to ensure adequate infection control measures to safeguard the health of employees. As at the end of 2009, a total of 293 warnings and nine improvement notices were issued in this special enforcement exercise.
 

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Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work
1.19 To ensure adequate protection of workers from heat stroke at work in summer, we enhanced our enforcement and publicity efforts from April to September. Apart from promoting the awareness of employers and employees of heat stroke prevention, we stepped up our inspections of workplaces with a higher risk of heat stroke. The inspections covered matters such as the provision of adequate drinking water at readily accessible locations; the provision of sheltered work and rest areas, ventilation facilities; and the provision of appropriate information, instruction and training to workers. During this special enforcement campaign, we issued a total of 207 warnings and eight improvement notices, and took out three prosecutions.
 
Representatives of Labour Department partnered with stakeholders visiting individual workplace to promote heat stroke prevention at work.
Representatives of Labour Department partnered with stakeholders visiting individual workplace to promote heat stroke prevention at work.
 

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Strengthening Local and International Partnerships

Labour Day Reception

1.20 On April 28, 2009, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Mr. Matthew CHEUNG Kin-chung hosted a cocktail reception at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre of the China Resources Building to celebrate Labour Day and to pay tribute to the workforce. The Chief Executive Mr. Donald TSANG officiated at the reception, with guests from trade unions, employer associations and other organisations.
 
Toasting by the Chief Executive, Mr. Donald TSANG and senior government officials during Labour Day Reception.
Toasting by the Chief Executive, Mr. Donald TSANG and senior government officials during Labour Day Reception.
 

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Contacts with Other Labour Administrations
1.21 We maintain active liaison and interflows with other labour administrations through visits and participation in various activities.
 

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1.22 In February, Mr SUN Baoshu, Vice Minister, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the State Council, led a delegation to visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The delegation met with the Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching and exchanged views with officers of the Labour Department on various labour issues.
 
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching (right) welcomes Vice Minister SUN Baoshu of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (left).
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching (right) welcomes Vice Minister SUN Baoshu of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (left).
 

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1.23 In June, Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Labour Administration) Mr. Alan WONG Kwok-lun led a tripartite team comprising government, employer and employee representatives to attend the 98th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva as part of the Chinese delegation.
 
Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Labour Administration) Mr. Alan WONG Kwok-lun (middle) and members of the tripartite team at the International Labour Conference.
Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Labour Administration) Mr. Alan WONG Kwok-lun (middle) and members of the tripartite team at the International Labour Conference.
 

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1.24 In September, Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching led a delegation to participate in the 5th Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Safety Knowledge Competition. The event was hosted by the Administration of Work Safety of Guangdong Province and co-organised by the OSHC and Macao Labour Affairs Bureau. The delegation also visited the Administration of Work Safety of Shenzhen Municipality, Shenzhen Muncipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, Department of Labour and Social Security of Guangdong Province as well as the Mainland China Consultation Services Centre of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions. Views on matters related to labour administration and work safety were exchanged in these visits.
 
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching led a delegation visiting the Administration of Work Safety of Guangdong Province.
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching led a delegation visiting the Administration of Work Safety of Guangdong Province.
 

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1.25 In October, Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching led a delegation under the Reciprocal Visit Programme to visit the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the State Council in Beijing and met with Vice Minister SUN Baoshu. The delegation also visited the State Administration of Work Safety.
 
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching (left) meets Vice Minister SUN Baoshu of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (right).
Commissioner for Labour Mrs. Cherry TSE LING Kit-ching (left) meets Vice Minister SUN Baoshu of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (right).