Young given chance to care for elderly
A major operator of homes for the elderly is wooing secondary-school leavers who fail to gain entry to higher study with free courses and HK$8,000 a month to join its staff.
The move by the Haven of Hope Christian Service is a part of a larger attempt to reform the aged-care industry and ease a worsening manpower shortage.
It is the first programme of its kind approved by the Social Welfare Department, which is working on reforms that could see the maximum salary of caretakers for the elderly raised from HK$12,000 to as much as HK$17,000 per month.
Care homes are struggling with a staff shortage of about 10 per cent and are facing what has been dubbed an 'old people taking care of older people' situation. The average age of caretakers is about 50 and many are leaving because of deteriorating health and because they cannot cope with the heavy work.
'The situation is very acute and worrying,' Haven of Hope chief executive Dr Lam Ching-choi, said. 'As more staff leave out of tiredness, the remaining people are carrying a much heavier role.'
Young people simply refused to work in homes for the elderly, which they found unattractive in terms of the working environment, salary and promotion prospects, he said.
Lam, who is also vice-chairman of the Elderly Commission, is inviting 40 secondary school leavers, who have completed Form Five or Six, but failed to gain a place for higher study, to join the one-year free programme to be launched this month.
Each trainee will get a salary of HK$8,000 a month and the tuition fee of HK9,500 will be fully subsidised.
Graduates of the course, approved by the government last month, will earn two qualifications: Registered Health Worker in Residential Care Home for the Elderly (Grade III) and Registered Health Worker in Residential Care Home for Persons with Disabilities (Grade III).
The graduates will be free to work for Haven of Hope or elsewhere.
'The trainees who work in our homes can ease part of our manpower problem throughout the year,' Lam said. 'Of course it would be great if they stayed on, but if not, at least we will have helped some youngsters obtain more opportunities.'
Haven of Hope launched a trial programme last year prior to the new government approval.
One recruit, Anita, 19, initially faced opposition from her family when she considered joining the programme, but when she started work she found the job very fulfilling.
'Some of my friends are selling mobile phones on the street, without a plan for their lives,' she said. 'I think the programme allows me a clearer path and I find it meaningful.'
The Elderly Commission is considering restructuring health carers' promotion paths via four pay bands, with a top rate of HK$17,000.
The proportion of Hongkongers aged 65 or older. This figure is predicted to rise to about 39 per cent of the population by 2050