The government should be able to come up with a clear direction for retirement protection within three years but standard working hours would be more complicated, the labour and welfare chief said yesterday.
Calling the two issues "the tough nuts" in welfare administration, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung pledged that the government would not shirk the hard questions.
Cheung said he was confident that the government, together with the Commission on Poverty, could map a way forward for a universal pension scheme in three years but implementing it would be harder.
"Any long-term policy needs time to form," he said. "Short-term policies are quick, but they mean nothing."
The minister urged the public and politicians to wait for a consensus to be found and for policies to brew.
"There is no quick fix, there is no magic wand," he said.
A comprehensive study including calculations on retirement pension schemes should be ready by early next year at the latest, he said.
The study, commissioned by the Commission on Poverty in March and led by University of Hong Kong professor in social welfare and administration Nelson Chow Wing-sun, has been looking at half a dozen such plans, put forward by academics, political parties and social advocacy groups.
Cheung said that there would be a clearer picture on the subject once the report was done.
But he skirted questions on whether the scheme would be means-tested and details of funding and contributions.
Cheung said standard working hours were a lot more complicated than the minimum wage legislation now in place. The issue affected the whole working population and involved more stakeholders and cultural issues.