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Chapter 1
Highlights of Year 2015

1.1 The labour market remained largely stable in overall terms in 2015. Both total employment and the labour force grew moderately further, with the former reaching 3 798 900 in 2015. The unemployment rate hovered at a low level of 3.2-3.3% during the year, averaging at 3.3% for the year as a whole, signifying another year of full employment. We will continue to closely monitor the employment market situation and enhance our employment services on all fronts, especially in netting suitable vacancies from the market and rendering assistance to job seekers.
 
Employment Services
Enhancing Employment Services
1.2 To help job seekers enter the labour market and respond speedily to the recruitment needs of employers, the Labour Department (LD) organises employment promotion activities at various locations across the territory. A total of 17 large-scale job fairs and 985 district-based job fairs were organised in the year.
 
Large-scale job fairs organised by the Labour Department well-received by job seekers
Large-scale job fairs organised by the
Labour Department well-received by job seekers
 
1.3 LD adopts a proactive approach in providing employment assistance. For example, in major business closure or redundancy cases, we set up enquiry hotlines and special counters at our job centres to provide special employment services to affected employees. In 2015, the free recruitment service provided for employers by LD recorded 1 345 272 vacancies from the private and public sectors; and 148 347 placements were secured.
 
Strengthening Employment and Training Support for the Youth
1.4 LD spared no efforts in enhancing the employability of young people through the provision of comprehensive youth employment and training support services by administering the Youth Employment and Training Programme (YETP) and operating two youth employment resource centres. In 2015, LD continued to further its collaboration with employers and various organisations to launch pilot employment projects under YETP. We also launched the fifth phase of "Action S5", a special employment project which rendered assistance to vulnerable young people aged 15 to 24 with acute employment difficulties.
 
Broadening Horizons of our Youths
1.5 LD continued to explore with more economies to establish new Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) arrangements while at the same time sought to expand our existing bilateral arrangements. WHS with Austria commenced operation in March 2015. Furthermore, we agreed with the Ireland, Korea and France in 2015 to increase the reciprocal annual quota under the WHS starting from 2016. The annual quota under the Hong Kong/Korea WHS had been doubled from 500 to 1,000 with effect from January 2016. Meanwhile, the annual quota under Hong Kong/France WHS was further expanded to 500. Also, annual quota under the Hong Kong/Ireland WHS had been increased from 100 to 200 starting from March 2016.
 
Labour Relations
Promoting Harmonious Labour Relations
1.6 To foster harmonious labour relations, LD continued to adopt a proactive and pragmatic approach in helping employers and employees resolve their disagreements through communication, mutual understanding and flexible adjustments. In 2015, we handled a total of 53 labour disputes and 14 388 claims. Over 70% of cases with conciliation service rendered were resolved. The average waiting time for conciliation meetings was 2.7 weeks in the year. Besides, the number of working days lost in Hong Kong as a result of strike remained among the lowest in the world.
 
Stepping Up Enforcement against Wage Offences
1.7 In 2015, LD sustained its all-out efforts to combat wage offences, including breaches of the Statutory Minimum Wage provisions. Territory-wide inspection campaigns targeted at offence-prone trades were launched. Apart from proactive inspections to check compliance, we widely publicised our complaint hotline (2815 2200) and collected intelligence on non-payment of wages in various industries through an early warning system in collaboration with trade unions. LD conducted prompt investigation into suspected wage offences and employed veteran ex-police officers to strengthen the investigative work and collection of intelligence so as to facilitate speedy prosecution.
 
1.8 We continued to step up the 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.
 
1.9 Since the implementation of the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2010 from October 29, 2010, employers who wilfully and without reasonable excuse defaulted awards for wages or some other entitlements made by the Labour Tribunal or Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board have become liable to criminal prosecution. This has further strengthened the deterrent against law-defying employers.
 
Enhancing Good People Management Practices and Harmonious Labour Relations
1.10 LD organised a wide range of promotional activities including exhibitions, seminars and talks to promote employer-employee communication and "employee-oriented" good people management measures. In 2015, a large-scale seminar was staged for around 250 human resources managers and corporate executives to promote friendly employment practices for mature persons and families. The Family-friendly Employment Practices and Good People Management Practical Guidelines for Catering Industry were also launched to promote to employers and employees in the industry family-friendly employment practices. Promotional activities were also organised in collaboration with industry-based tripartite committees to encourage wider adoption of family-friendly employment practices in different industries.
 
Launching Ceremony of the Family-friendly Employment Practical Guidelines for Catering Industry
Launching Ceremony of the Family-friendly
Employment Practical Guidelines for Catering Industry
 
Employees' Rights and Benefits
Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW)
1.11 The implementation of the increased SMW rate at $32.5 per hour since May 1, 2015 has been smooth. The earnings of grassroots employees have continued to improve. In the year, LD organised extensive publicity activities to promote the revised SMW rate and SMW legislation. A multi-pronged strategy was also adopted to safeguard employees' entitlement to SMW through conducting proactive workplace inspections to establishments of various trades and mounting targeted enforcement campaigns in low-paying sectors.
 
1.12 The Minimum Wage Commission (MWC) is an independent statutory body established under the Minimum Wage Ordinance with the main function of reporting to the Chief Executive in Council its recommendation about the SMW rate at least once in every two years. MWC comprises a Chairperson and 12 Members drawn from the labour sector, business community, academia and Government. The current two-year term of MWC started on March 1, 2015. LD and the Economic Analysis and Business Facilitation Unit of the Financial Secretary's Office are responsible for providing secretariat support to MWC.
 
Safeguarding the Rights of Employees of Government Service Contractors
1.13 To protect the statutory rights and benefits of non-skilled workers employed by government service contractors, we conduct inspections to their workplaces to check employers' compliance with legal and contractual requirements. With the concerted efforts of LD and procuring departments in stepping up monitoring and enforcement, the situation of contractors abiding by the labour laws had improved.
 
Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund
1.14 The Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund provides assistance in the form of ex gratia payment to eligible employees affected by insolvency of their employer. LD continued its efforts in clamping down at source on employers evading their wage liabilities, thus preventing wage defaults from developing into claims on the fund.
 
Vigorous Enforcement against Illegal Employment
1.15 LD collaborated with the Police and the Immigration Department to clamp down on illegal employment activities. A total of 210 joint operations were mounted in the year.
 
Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC)
1.16 In April 2013, the Government set up SWHC, comprising members drawn from the labour and business sectors, academia, community and Government. SWHC is tasked to follow up on the Government's completed policy study on standard working hours, promote informed and in-depth discussions of the community on the subject of working hours, and assist the Government to identify the way forward.
 
1.17 With reference to the findings of the first-stage consultation and the working hours survey completed in 2014, SWHC is further exploring working hours policy directions suitable for Hong Kong.
 
Safety and Health at Work
Safety of Major Works Projects (MWPs)
1.18 In the light of the commencement of MWPs, LD's dedicated teams continued to urge contractors to implement safety management systems on construction sites for the prevention of accidents through stepping up inspection and enforcement, publicity and promotion, as well as participating in the project preparatory meetings and site safety management meetings. LD strengthened the coordination with the Development Bureau, relevant works departments and other public works project clients to enhance MWP site safety measures, with a view to ensuring more effective control of risks by contractors. LD also launched enforcement operations with the Marine Department on sea-based construction works to deter work practices contravening safety requirements.
 
Safety of Repair, Maintenance, Alteration and Addition (RMAA) Works
1.19 There has been a rising trend in industrial accidents related to RMAA works in recent years and the volume of such works are expected to grow further with the ageing of our buildings and the implementation of mandatory requirements for inspection of buildings and windows by the Government.
 
1.20 To enhance the safety condition of RMAA works, LD continued to step up inspection and enforcement efforts to deter contractors from adopting unsafe work practices. Territory-wide special enforcement operations on RMAA works with emphasis on high risk processes, such as work-at-height, truss-out scaffolding works, lifting operations, electrical work, were also launched. During the special operations, 517 suspension/improvement notices were issued and 295 prosecutions were taken out.
 
1.21 On the educational and promotional front, we organised in 2015 a series of intensive promotion and publicity campaigns, targeting RMAA works, work-at-height and electrical work to arouse the safety awareness of all parties involved. These included continuing the two-year publicity campaign launched in 2014 in collaboration with the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC) with a wide range of initiatives seeking to reach contractors and workers engaged in RMAA works more effectively and impress upon them the importance of work safety. We also partnered with 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 safety at the district level.
 
1.22 We organised in collaboration with OSHC a Work-at-height Safety Forum in April 2015 and a series of thematic safety seminars including lifting operation, RMAA works, falsework and confined space work to engage industry stakeholders in exploring means to further enhance the construction safety standard. In 2015, LD and OSHC jointly expanded the mobile working platform sponsorship scheme and further launched a light-duty working platform sponsorship scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises to enhance the occupational safety and health (OSH) standard of the industry.
 
Work-at-height Safety Forum
Work-at-height Safety Forum
 
1.23 LD and OSHC continued the scheme on RMAA safety accreditation in 2015. It enhanced the OSH standard of the industry through the auditing of safety management system, training and subsidising purchase of fall arresting equipment and related facilities.
 
Safety Award Schemes
1.24 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 DVD-ROMs; as well as broadcasting Announcements in the Public Interest and promotional films on television/radio and buses.
 
Review of the System of Recognition and Monitoring of Mandatory Safety Training Courses
1.25 LD continued the improvement measures to enhance the system of recognition and monitoring of mandatory safety training courses, including our enhanced inspections to training course providers.
 
Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work
1.26 To ensure adequate protection of workers from heat stroke at work in summer, we stepped up enforcement and publicity from April to September. Apart from promoting the awareness of employers and employees of heat stroke prevention, we also distributed a guide on "Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work in a Hot Environment" and a general checklist on "Risk Assessment for the Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work". In the year, we also collaborated with OSHC and relevant workers' unions to promote prevention of heat stroke at work among professional drivers. Besides, 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 by employers; the provision of sheltered work and rest areas; ventilation facilities; and the provision of appropriate information, instruction and training to workers.
 
Strengthening Local and International Partnerships
Labour Day Reception
1.27 On April 27, 2015, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin Chung, hosted a reception at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to pay tribute to the workforce. The Chief Executive, C Y Leung, officiated at the reception, with guests from trade unions, employer associations and other organisations attending.
 
Chief Executive C Y Leung (2nd from left) officiating at the Labour Day Reception
Chief Executive C Y Leung (2nd from left)
officiating at the Labour Day Reception
 
Contacts with Other Labour Administrations
1.28 We maintained active liaison and interflows with other labour administrations through visits and participation in various activities.
 
1.29 In January, the Commissioner for Labour, Donald Tong Chi Keung, led a delegation to attend the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Exchange Meeting on Labour Inspection and Law Enforcement in Zhaoqing.
 
1.30 In June, a tripartite team comprising the Government, employer and employee representatives, led by the Commissioner for Labour, Donald Tong Chi Keung, attended the 104th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland as part of the delegation of the People's Republic of China.
 
Commissioner for Labour, Donald Tong Chi Keung (6th from left), and members of the tripartite team attending the 104th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland
Commissioner for Labour, Donald Tong Chi Keung (6th from left),
and members of the tripartite team attending the
104th Session of the International Labour Conference
in Geneva, Switzerland
 
1.31 In October, a delegation led by the Commissioner for Labour, Donald Tong Chi Keung, visited the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the State Council and met with Vice Minister Kong Changsheng in Beijing under the Reciprocal Visit Programme. The delegation also met with senior representatives of the State Administration of Work Safety, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the China Enterprise Confederation and the International Labour Organisation Country Office for China and Mongolia to exchange views on labour and work safety issues.
 
Commissioner for Labour, Donald Tong Chi Keung (middle), leading a delegation to Beijing under the Reciprocal Visit Programme
Commissioner for Labour, Donald Tong Chi Keung (middle),
leading a delegation to Beijing under the Reciprocal Visit Programme