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Chapter 1
Highlights of Year 2016

1.1 The labour market stayed resilient in overall terms in 2016. Both total employment and the labour force expanded further, with the former reaching 3 812 400 in 2016. The unemployment rate hovered at a low level of 3.3-3.4% during the year, averaging at 3.4% 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 19 large-scale job fairs and 960 district-based job fairs were organised in the year.
 
Large-scale job fairs organised for job seekers
Large-scale job fairs organised for 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 the year, the free recruitment service provided for employers by LD recorded 1 350 993 vacancies from the private and public sectors; and 149 794 placements were secured.
 
1.4 LD set up the Construction Industry Recruitment Centre (CIRC) in January 2016 to provide a venue for employers of the industry to organise job fairs and conduct on-the-spot job interviews with job seekers. CIRC is the third industry-based recruitment centre of LD, following the other two recruitment centres for the catering and retail trades.
 
On-the-spot job interviews with employers arranged for job seekers in the Construction Industry Recruitment Centre
On-the-spot job interviews with employers arranged for job seekers in the Construction Industry Recruitment Centre
 
1.5 To strengthen employment support for persons with higher education, in particular Hong Kong students who are educated in tertiary institutes outside Hong Kong, the second generation of Hong Kong emigrants as well as persons from overseas with higher academic/professional qualifications who are interested in working in Hong Kong, LD launched the Higher Education Employment Information e-Platform in December 2016.
 
Strengthening Employment and Training Support for the Youth
1.6 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 2016, LD continued to collaborate with training bodies, individual employers or specific sectors to launch special employment projects, providing tailor-made pre-employment training and on-the-job training for young people.
 
Broadening Horizons of our Youths
1.7 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. We agreed with Japan to significantly increase the reciprocal annual quota under WHS from 250 to 1 500 starting from October 2016. In December 2016, a new WHS was established with Hungary.
 
Labour Relations
Promoting Harmonious Labour Relations
1.8 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 2016, we handled a total of 55 labour disputes and 14 672 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
1.9 In 2016, 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 evidence so as to facilitate speedy prosecution.
 
1.10 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.
 
1.11 Since the implementation of the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2010 from October 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
1.12 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 2016, a large-scale seminar was staged for around 280 human resources managers and corporate executives to promote good people management practices. Newspaper supplement and radio promotional messages were also launched to convey relevant messages to the general public. Promotional activities were organised in collaboration with industry-based tripartite committees to encourage wider adoption of good people management methods, including the implementation of family-friendly employment practices in different industries.
 
Seminar on Good People Management
Seminar on Good People Management
 
Employees' Rights and Benefits
Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW)
1.13 In 2016, LD organised various publicity activities to promote the Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO). To safeguard employees’ entitlement to SMW, we also conducted proactive workplace inspections to establishments of various trades and mounted targeted enforcement campaigns in low-paying sectors. Overall, the implementation of SMW was smooth and the employment market remained stable.
 
1.14 The Minimum Wage Commission (MWC) is an independent statutory body established under MWO 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. In October 2016, MWC completed a new round of review of the SMW rate and submitted its report with the recommendation of raising the SMW rate from $32.5 per hour to $34.5 per hour.
 
Safeguarding the Rights of Employees of Government Service Contractors
1.15 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
1.16 The Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund provides assistance in the form of ex gratia payment to eligible employees affected by insolvency of their employers. 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
1.17 LD collaborated with the Police and the Immigration Department to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 220 joint operations were mounted in the year.
 
Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC)
1.18 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.
 
1.19 SWHC completed the “Consultation on Working Hours Policy Directions” (Second-stage Consultation) in July 2016 and continued relevant discussion with a view to formulating the recommendations on the working hours policy directions and preparing its report to the Government.
 
Safety and Health at Work
Safety of Major Works Projects (MWPs)
1.20 In 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
1.21 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.
 
1.22 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, 516 suspension/improvement notices were issued and 283 prosecutions were taken out.
 
1.23 On the educational and promotional front, we organised 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 launching a two-year publicity campaign in 2016 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. In 2016, we in collaboration with OSHC produced safety promotional videos on "Work-at-height" and "Electrical Work Safety" for broadcast on the website of LD and OSHC, the Housing Channel of Housing Authority, district job centres and Social Welfare Department offices.
 
1.24 In 2016, we organised in collaboration with OSHC a series of safety seminars including RMAA works, work-at-height, electrical work and housekeeping to engage industry stakeholders in exploring means to further enhance the construction safety standard.
 
1.25 LD and OSHC continued with the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Enterprise Scheme on RMAA Safety Accreditation in 2016. It enhanced the OSH standard of the industry through auditing the safety management system, training and subsidising purchase of fall arresting equipment and related facilities. In August 2016, the OSH Enterprise Scheme on RMAA Safety Accreditation for non-Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) was launched to enhance their overall safety performance.
 
1.26 In May 2016, LD and OSHC jointly launched a new portable residual current device (PRCD) sponsorship scheme for SMEs in the construction, RMAA, and electrical and mechanical engineering sectors to purchase PRCD that met the safety standard to enhance electrical work safety. In December 2016, the scope of the scheme was extended to real estate maintenance management & servicing and repairing of motor vehicles and motorcycles to benefit more workers.
 
1.27 Falling from height has always been the major cause of industrial fatal accidents. LD collaborated with property management sector and relevant government departments to promote work-at-height safety to owners’ corporations, owners/tenants, contractors and workers concerned including use of suitable working platforms instead of ladders for work above ground. In order for safety helmets to provide the best protection by reducing head injury on workers falling from height, LD had also enhanced the publicity effort on the use of safety helmet with chin straps to workers through relevant trade associations and workers’ unions.
 
Safety Award Schemes
1.28 Two safety award schemes were organised for the catering and construction industries to inculcate a work 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
1.29 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
1.30 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”. During 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
1.31 On 29 April 2016, 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
1.32 We maintained active liaison and interflows with other labour administrations through visits and participation in various activities in 2016.
 
1.33 In June, a tripartite team comprising the Government, employer and employee representatives, led by the Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Labour Administration), Byron Ng Kwok Keung, attended the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland as part of the delegation of the People’s Republic of China.
 
Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Labour Administration), Byron Ng Kwok Keung (6th from left), and members of the tripartite team attending the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland
Deputy Commissioner for Labour (Labour Administration), Byron Ng Kwok Keung (6th from left), and members of the tripartite team attending the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland
 
1.34 In November, Deputy Director General Cui Changzheng, Department of General Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the State Council (MoHRSS), led a delegation to visit Hong Kong under the Reciprocal Visit Programme. The delegation exchanged views on labour issues with the Commissioner for Labour, Carlson Chan Ka Shun, and LD officers.
 
Commissioner for Labour, Carlson Chan Ka Shun (right), meeting Deputy Director General Cui Changzheng, Department of General Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (left)
Commissioner for Labour, Carlson Chan Ka Shun (right), meeting Deputy Director General Cui Changzheng, Department of General Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (left)
 
1.35 In December, Vice Minister Kong Changsheng of MoHRSS, at the invitation of the Government, visited Hong Kong and met with the Commissioner for Labour, Carlson Chan Ka Shun, and other officials of LD to exchange views on the latest development of labour affairs.
 
Commissioner for Labour, Carlson Chan Ka Shun (4th from left), meeting Vice Minister Kong Changsheng, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (3rd from left)
Commissioner for Labour, Carlson Chan Ka Shun (4th from left), meeting Vice Minister Kong Changsheng, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (3rd from left)