Young voices unheard on most advisory bodies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Activists who besieged the Legislative Council in protest against construction of the Hong Kong-Guangzhou high-speed rail link may have had a point when they said the government did not listen to young people.

In a written reply to the legislature yesterday, Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said only 25, or 6.4 per cent, of all advisory and statutory bodies had non-official members aged 30 or below.

South China Morning Post research revealed that the average age of non-official board members of six influential statutory bodies approaches 60 - retirement age.

Appointing older people created a risk that the government was not hearing younger citizens and decreased the breadth of discussion on key issues before they became the subject of legislation, officials say.

As of September 30, only 10 of 356 non-official board members of 24 major statutory bodies, or 2.8 per cent, were aged below 40.

Non-official board members are not public servants and are recruited from the public.

Only 25 advisory and statutory bodies have appointed non-official members aged 30 or below, with those such as the Dogs and Cats Classification Board, the Appeal Board Panel under the Rabies Ordinance and the Commission on Youth having the highest percentage of members from the 'post-80s generation'.

No chairman of an advisory or statutory body is aged below 30.

The average age of non-official Airport Authority and Public Service Commission board members when they were appointed in 2008 - 58.3 years - tops the list among 24 major statutory bodies, according to Home Affairs Bureau statistics.

Five of the nine Airport Authority board non-official members are over 60.

The Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority comes second with an average age of 58.2, followed by the Securities and Futures Commission's 58.

The average age of Commission on Youth members when they were appointed was 46.

The average age of 3,552 people holding 5,586 posts on 432 advisory and statutory bodies is 52.7, with 15.7 per cent aged over 60,

In a July 2004 report, the Home Affairs Bureau said young people, who could provide a useful balance to the interests and views of older decision-makers, were under-represented on statutory and advisory bodies. The bureau proposed that more under-40s should be appointed to provide alternative views. But no target was set.

An official who preferred to remain anonymous said an increasing number of older people were serving on major statutory bodies because senior officials were inclined to recommend people with whom they were familiar, who enjoyed a good reputation in their own professions and who had already been appointed to major statutory bodies.

'As members of major advisory and statutory bodies are ageing, the government is running the risk of being out of touch with the pulse of the general public,' the official said.

Dr Ray Yep Kin-man, associate professor with City University's department of public and social administration, said the membership of most advisory bodies was heavily tilted towards entrepreneurs and senior executives.

He said senior officials preferred to build a 'comfort zone' on advisory and statutory bodies by appointing like-minded individuals.

But that practice undermined the quality of discussion on potential legislative issues during the pre-legislation period.

Elder statesmen

Age profile of statutory bodies' non-official members

Average age (in Sep 2009)

Airport Authority: 59.9

Public Service Commission: 59.5

Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority: 57.6

Securities and Futures Commission: 59.1

Employees Retraining Board: 57.8

HK Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications: 57.5

West Kowloon Cultural District Authority: 55.9

Hospital Authority: 55.9

Vocational Training Council: 55.7

Trade Development Council: 56.2

The percentage of members aged 30 or below: 6.4%

The age profiles of Hong Kong' s advisory and statutory bodies

Advisory bodies
Average age: 53.2
Below 40: 7.6%
40-60: 74.4%
Above 60: 18%

Statutory bodies
Average age: 52.2
Below 40: 7.3%
40-60: 77.8%
Above 60: 14.9%