Hong Kong takes great pride in its ability to integrate people from different cultures and backgrounds into its society. But when it comes to integrating the disabled into the job market, a great deal more remains to be done.
According to a survey by Junior Chamber International Tai Ping Shan and Caritas Rehabilitation Service under the banner of 'Project Love and Hope - Promoting Employment of People with Disabilities', the jobless rate for disabled people in Hong Kong in May 2012 was 19 per cent - compared with the city's overall rate of 3.3 per cent for the same period.
At the April 22 announcement of the survey, Jacky Ko Chung-kit, project chairman on behalf of Junior Chamber Tai Ping Shan, called on employers to give the disabled a chance.
'Employing the disabled not only helps a person, it helps a family. The disabled work not only to support themselves. Work helps them gain self-confidence and seek their role in society. Their families are very happy to see them working because they regard it as an important way to gain social acceptance,' he says.
To promote the event, organisers launched a series of online activities, including a Facebook page, Weibo, an Android apps and discussion groups in the Uwants and Discuss forums.
Singer Yu Kiu, 'Love Ambassador' for the project, shot a video to promote the event. 'I worked with disabled people while I shot the video, and I think that they gave us a huge lift. They are capable of contributing, just like everyone else,' she says.
Stanley Cheung Yun-hang, who was selected as one of the 'Ten Outstanding Youth' in 2009, is the project's 'Hope Ambassador'. He encourages the disabled to work hard to earn opportunities.
'The slogan of the event is 'Give them a chance' and I hope employers can give the disabled a chance. I encourage the disabled to work hard and give employers an opportunity to let them help,' says Cheung, who lost the fingers of his right hand and was left with impaired vision and hearing on his right side after suffering severe burns to 60 per cent of his body in the Pat Sin Leng hill fire in 1996.
William Choy Wai-lim, owner of Hong Lin Restaurant, is keen to hire the disabled. He explored the possibility after watching a TV programme on disabled people working in restaurants.
Choy, who owns three cha chaan teng in Kowloon and the New Territories, has employed more than 30 disabled staff and currently has 18 working for him.
'Disabled staff have a low turnover rate, which helps maintain my business' stability. Employers should give the disabled a chance because they are giving themselves the chance to have a stable workforce,' he says.
Choy sings the disabled's praises. 'If you give them time and attention, they can blossom. A couple of disabled junior bakers who have worked for me for some years can earn more than HK$10,000 a month,' he says.
Chan Fung-ling, who has a niece who is disabled and works for Choy, says that she is very grateful that Choy offered her niece a job.
'Before working at Hong Lin Restaurant, she was not able to find consistent work. Her physical condition does not allow her to work long hours. Boss Choy was caring enough to let her work six hours a day, and then gradually increase her hours as she gets more comfortable,' Chan says.
'He holds parents' meetings with the families of disabled staff to help them adjust to work. I have never met such a loving and caring employer before,' she adds.