Bosses still refuse to hire disabled staff, forum told

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2011, 12:00am


More disabled people receive higher education in Hong Kong than ever before but the job market still discriminates against them, a former lawmaker said yesterday.

Former social welfare sector legislator Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said the government should set a hiring quota for each department and every non-governmental organisation it subsidised.

'Many overseas countries have already set a standard for companies and those who failed to meet it are fined,' he said.

Speaking at a at Polytechnic University forum on the experiences of the disabled, Kenon Kwong Chung-on, 31, complained he had never found enough work.

Kwong, who is visually impaired, graduated with a degree in business administration from Chinese University in 2002. In the past nine years, he has had three full-time jobs but the longest lasted only six months.

'At first, I wanted to find work in marketing or public relations,' he said. 'As my vision deteriorated, I looked at telemarketing but was still turned down.'

Kwong once applied for a job at an insurance company, where his main duty would be calling clients.

'When they found out I was visually impaired, they told me the job required reading documents, too,' he said. He said there were speaker systems that helped him to read documents on the computer.

Kwong developed glaucoma in his early teens, and his vision has dropped to 10 per cent of the average. He earns about HK$5,000 a month through three part-time jobs including teaching courses on communications skills at a trade union and writing columns for a newspaper, along with a HK$1,200 disability government subsidy.

'It's not enough for my daily expenses,' he said. 'Recently I started job hunting again.'

The Disability Discrimination Ordinance, passed in 1995, sets out company responsibilities when hiring and rejecting disabled people for positions.

But Cheung said that people like Kwong were still treated unfairly, with companies seeking to get around the law by arguing the prospective employee lacked experience and education. Only 13 per cent of Hong Kong's disabled people were economically active, compared to over 60 per cent among society in general, said Cheung citing government figures. Being 'active' includes doing freelance work and looking for a job.

According to an NGO, government census data shows there are 360,000 disabled people in Hong Kong.

Kevin Ng Chun-chi, 27, who has been suffering from spasms since an early age, has not found any work yet. Ng graduated two years ago with an associate degree in social work from City University.

'I had wanted to be a social worker because I like to help people to have a positive attitude towards life,' he said. 'I feel depressed about being out of work. Sometimes I believe in my ability but sometimes I would doubt whether it's my own fault. I have thought of giving up.'

Thalassaemia patient Andy Chiu Ho-lam, 37, obtained a higher diploma in design four years ago, but failed to find any related jobs. 'I want to use what I have learned, but I never get the chance,' he said.

A Labour Department spokesman said it already had a special unit to find jobs for the disabled.