Report 'ignores ideas by public'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2007, 12:00am

Input missing from population proposal

Specific recommendations are missing from a top-level report on population policy, including a later retirement age, paternity leave and flexible working hours, even though they were put forward at an earlier stage of the study.

Members of the Council for Sustainable Development and some experts involved in the exercise expressed surprise yesterday at the general nature of the 24 recommendations put forward in the council's final report.

The report, which has not yet been made public, was submitted to the government in June.

In the same month, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said Hong Kong's population ought to increase to 10 million, a target that one critic said was not mentioned during the public consultation, which began last year.

Opinions were collected in a series of public activities, after which views from 1,691 comment cards and 26 public meetings were analysed by Polytechnic University.

The analysis was used as a basis for making recommendations to the government.

The university found that more than 60 per cent of the respondents said there was a need to encourage people to retire later to increase the size of the workforce and some suggested the government should take the lead by offering paternity leave to civil servants.

The consultation document released by the council last June also suggested flexible hours for working women as an incentive to increase the fertility rate.

But those recommendations were not incorporated into the final report.

It lists 24 measures the government can take to improve the quality of life, raise the fertility rate and adapt to an ageing population.

The report asked the government to promote family-friendly employment measures and provide financial incentives to promote parenthood, but no specific examples were given.

It stopped short of recommending a Family Commission to strengthen family support, stating only that the government should consider whether the commission should be set up.

Other recommendations included reviewing immigration policies when necessary, promoting community health, encouraging retired people to work part-time, increasing open space and creating a barrier-free environment for the elderly.

Members of the council's subcommittee responsible for the exercise said they were surprised by the omission from the report of some of the views the public expressed. Some experts from the council's support group, which compiled the consultation document, have also complained to the council that the report does not fully reflect public opinion.

'It is not a genuine product of public engagement,' said Chan Wai-kwan, a member of the subcommittee and the support group.

Dr Chan said only one meeting was held by the subcommittee to discuss public views and there had been only 'simple exchanges' between the council and subcommittee members.

Another subcommittee member, Albert Lai Kwong-tak, said the gap between the public views and the report reflected the council's lack of independence. The government's administration wing was the secretariat for the council when the report was prepared.

He also criticised the chief executive for making the statement that the population should increase to 10 million, adding that such a 'target' was never mentioned during the public consultations.

But subcommittee chairman Otto Poon Lok-to said only predominating public views had been incorporated into the report, adding that the government exerted no pressure.

A spokeswoman for the administration wing said the government was now collating a response to the report. The government is expected to draw up a population policy by the end of this year.

People's choice

The population report was drawn up after analysing views from 1,691 comment cards and 26 public meetings

The percentage of people who were in favour of late retirement 60%