Letters to the Editor, October 16, 2017
Still falling short with leave for mums
The slogan of the chief executive’s policy address on Wednesday was “We connect for hope and happiness”.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor put forward new and innovative measures in an effort to resolve economic and livelihood issues.
For example, she supports extending the statutory maternity leave and is launching a study to look into this. This is partly to deal with the problems associated with an ageing population, trying to get more young couples to start a family.
If it goes ahead, such a measure will narrow the difference between Hong Kong and other developed societies, but probably not by much.
She increased paternity leave from three to five days, but again that is not that much and I do not see how it can encourage more young couples to have children. More leave will have to be granted.
At the moment, statutory maternity leave is 10 weeks. Compare this with the minimum of 18 weeks in Australia and 38 weeks in England.
If it is increased to 14 weeks, it may help a bit and we could see some moderate rise in the birth rate.
I also welcome her introduction in the policy address of a number of measures aimed at improving citizens’ livelihood.
Carly Fung, Tseung Kwan O
Starter homes scheme will do some good
The new government still faces a lot of problems when it comes to housing and the chief executive tried to address some of them with her policy address.
Despite policies adopted by previous administrations, prices of private flats keep soaring. Even a small apartment now costs millions of dollars and it is out of the reach of most Hong Kong citizens.
One initiative mentioned in the policy address was the ”starter homes” scheme.
It is aimed at helping families on lower incomes, earning HK$52,000 to HK$68,000, but only 1,000 homes will be available.
At least these couples and singles who qualify will escape suffering at the hands of property speculators.
Officials also need to look at land availability. There is quite a lot of land, but not a lot that can easily be developed.
This is because much land in rural areas is protected as country parks. In the long term, if some of this land was developed, this could solve our housing problems.
Clearly, a lot of hard choices like this one will have to be made in the community.
The starter-homes pilot scheme is good, but other tough decisions will have to be made if we are to successfully deal with the city’s serious shortage of affordable housing and help more citizens lead better lives.
Kenneth Cheung Ho-yeung, Po Lam
Residents need help as soon as possible
While the “starter homes” scheme announced in the policy address will do some good, the priority for the government should not be providing more homes, but bringing down the skyrocketing prices of flats.
According to one survey, house prices in Hong Kong are now double what they were in 1997.
However, the wages of an employee have only increased by about 10 per cent over the same period.
Therefore, their spending power has fallen behind the rising prices of flats, which makes them unaffordable to most people.
Even public flats can be beyond the reach of some families, so the government has to take the necessary measures to cut the cost of flats in Hong Kong.
Whatever policies it proposes, it will have to act fast, because so many citizens continue to live in dangerous and overcrowded conditions throughout the city and they need help as soon as possible.
William Wan Wai-ming, Clear Water Bay
Targeting rich tenants is not very helpful
The government has finally taken the initiative to evict wealthy public housing tenants.
However, I do not think too many flats will be vacated and given to tenants on the waiting list on much lower incomes.
And it will not help people from the middle classes who are struggling to find affordable housing. The prices of housing are so high nowadays and it is made worse by the price rises overall.
The government must introduce measures to lower property prices and it should stop developers hoarding empty properties. Land sale contracts should outlaw this kind of hoarding.
The government will continue not to build enough new public housing flats to meet the rising demand and public estate waiting lists will remain long. Many people will have to wait for years before they can get a flat.
Kathy Cheuk Ka-yee, Kowloon Tong
No place for prejudice in modern city
Nowadays, even though there are laws protecting ethnic minorities from discrimination, these citizens still face difficulties, including prejudice from some local people.
Some locals still look down on people from ethnic minorities, having preconceptions which are based on irrational views that cannot be justified. This can mean that minorities are forced into relatively narrow social circles.
They can sometimes find it difficult to get good jobs and so it is tough for them to enjoy financial security. It is irresponsible for any employers to prejudge minorities when they are applying for a job.
They should be judged on their merits and qualifications. I would like to see an end to this kind of prejudice.
Samuel Cheng, Sai Kung