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Promoting Employment and Training

47. Though Hong Kong's economy is showing signs of recovery, many people, including some from the middle class, still suffer from unemployment, job insecurity and other pains brought about by economic adjustments. In the transition to a knowledge-based economy, we need to strengthen training and retraining before economic growth can bring about increased employment.

48. We need to continue to promote training and retraining. Some of the Vocational Training Council's (VTC) courses have been criticised for not meeting market demand. These have been improved. The VTC provided more than 32 000 pre-vocational places and some 90 000 in-service training places in the past school year. The Employees Retraining Board (ERB) provided over 100 000 places in 2003. Graduates from courses offered by the VTC and fulltime ERB courses achieved an employment rate of 80% on average. These training and retraining courses will be better oriented towards the needs of our restructuring economy to increase the trainees' employability.

49. In the past, we have introduced a package of temporary jobs and skills enhancement opportunities. Most of the short-term jobs are due to expire by March. Although the unemployment rate is declining and the employment situation is improving, we are determined to set aside, even as we strive to reduce the fiscal deficit, about $1.2 billion to implement three employment measures. First, we will extend about 11 000 temporary jobs; second, we will extend the Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme by two years to place into employment 10 000 young people aged 15 to 24; and third, we will introduce a one-year trial scheme to assist 1 000 young people to become selfemployed.

50. We are seriously concerned about continuing learning and employment for young people. The Youth Pre-employment Training Programme has provided practical support for those leaving school and seeking employment, and will definitely continue. We have accepted the recommendations of the Commission on Youth and will set up an inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary task force to be responsible for overseeing the implementation of various youth training and employment programmes. We will establish a Youth Sustainable Development and Employment Fund to promote trial schemes and exploit opportunities for training, placement and employment.

51. The Government has vigorously stepped up its employment service for job seekers. Last year, the 11 job centres of the Labour Department placed 66 000 persons in employment. We will continue with our Special Incentive Allowance Scheme for Local Domestic Helpers. We will review the scheme and make improvements if necessary.

52. We fully appreciate the hardship and feelings of those who are unemployed and will try our utmost to help them enter the job market. But we also understand that real economic growth is the key to effectively tackling structural unemployment. For example, the tourism sector is becoming more prosperous. New hotels gradually coming on stream over the next five years will provide not only many jobs for construction and decoration projects but also some 13 000 new service-related jobs. The capital works programme for the next five years will sustain the employment of about 41 000 construction workers annually, apart from professional and technical personnel. The Government will actively remove obstacles to the development of local businesses and encourage corporate investment. We are determined to crack down on the employment of illegal workers to safeguard job opportunities for the local workforce. We will also pay attention to whether those working on Government contracts are receiving a reasonable wage.

2004| Important notices
Last revision date : January 7, 2004