Companies join forces to fight poverty

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 12:44pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 3:34pm

Private sector backing from more than 40 businesses has been mobilised to support an ambitious campaign to help alleviate poverty in Hong Kong.

Business Action on Poverty, which was launched on Tuesday, says it aims to educate companies on what they can do to help the poor and “move beyond dialogue towards more action”.

Signatories to the charter include multinationals, KPMG, RBS, Swift, Cisco and Bayer.

Robin Bishop, director of corporate responsibility at non-profit group Community Business, said companies should move away from the old notion of philanthropy and provide practical solutions.

“Poverty alleviation is no longer a project the government and non-governmental organisations can solve alone,” Bishop said. “It’s about teaching people how to fish.”

The campaign will include a series of programmes aimed at helping the city’s young people develop technical and workplace skills to create “sustainable career opportunities”. Some 9.9 per cent of young people in Hong Kong are unemployed, according to recent statistics.

One of the initiatives, Step UP, will from next month target 18-to-25-year-olds living in low-income areas such as Tin Shui Wai and Sham Shui Po – providing basic work skills in areas including customer service, sales and communications.

“Alleviating poverty is a moral obligation for us but helping foster a strong and stable community around us also makes good business sense,” KPMG regional senior partner Andrew Weir said. "It's no longer a [poverty] gap anymore - its a gulf."

Patrick de Courcy, deputy chief executive at Swift, Asia Pacific, said the campaign gave companies a chance to take collective action and provide a meaningful contribution of social issues.

Dr Law Chi-kwong, a member of the Commission on Poverty and head of the Community Care Fund, said it was getting harder for youngsters to obtain their first job.

"Businesses need to support and help youths catch the labour market train which is moving faster and faster by the day."

Clement Chen Cheng-jen, chairman of the Vocational Training Institute and head of the education, employment and training task force on the Commission on Poverty, said more could be done to equip young people with skills in fields such as electrical and mechanical repair. 

He said there were certain skilled industries in Hong Kong that were "screaming for labour" and many young people could be trained to fill the demand.