Government urged to offer more child care services

Government and companies must act so women can rejoin workforce to help ageing population

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 5:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 5:17am

The government has been urged to offer more childcare services so mothers can rejoin the workforce, alleviating staff shortages in different industries.

The calls were made at RTHK's City Forum yesterday, a few days after the government launched a public consultation to tackle challenges arising from the city's ageing population.

Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Chan Yuen-han said many mothers wanted to return to the workforce, but were unable to do so because they could not find suitable childcare centres.

"Another important thing is that they want to leave work on time to take care of their children. If they cannot leave on time, they would rather quit their jobs," Chan said, explaining the need to legislate standard working hours.

Chan Wai-tak, who is in charge of a Tai Wo centre run by the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres, said mothers often needed to wait for six months to a year for a space in a childcare centre.

"Sometimes the wait can be up to three years. This is really horrible," she said.

Apart from beefing up childcare services, City University associate professor of applied social studies Leung Lai-ching said the government should also encourage companies to offer family-friendly policies, such as flexible working hours.

Confederation of Trade Unions chief executive Mung Siu-tat said the government was contradicting itself by suggesting upgrading an existing labour import system while at the same time encouraging local women to go to work.

Last Thursday, the government proposed a five-pronged approach to tackle the ageing population.

By 2041, only 1.8 people of working age - defined as those between 15 and 64 - will support one dependent elderly person financially, down from a ratio of 5:1 this year. The proposed strategies include expanding the labour force by encouraging more women and retirees to return to work; searching for global talent and upgrading the labour import system; fostering a supportive environment for raising children; and helping the elderly to stay active in the community.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said the government would ensure that local workers filled all vacancies first.