But a union official says the schemes to keep 22,600 in work are not enough
The government plans to spend $1.2 billion to maintain 22,600 temporary positions for up to two years in an attempt to ease unemployment, Tung Chee-hwa said yesterday.
Under the package, 11,600 temporary jobs will be extended for between six months and two years at a cost of $870 million.
A further 10,000 training placements at private enterprises will also be maintained for two years under the Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme, at a cost of $300 million.
In a new programme, $30 million will be spent on a one-year trial scheme to help 1,000 young people aged 18 to 24 become self-employed.
The programmes come amid declining unemployment, which stands at 7.5 per cent, but at a time when the deficit remains high.
'We fully appreciate the hardship and feelings of those who are unemployed and will try our utmost to help them enter the job market. But we also understand that real economic growth is the key to tackling unemployment,' Mr Tung said.
He said the government would remove obstacles to the development of local businesses and encourage corporate investment.
Most of the renewed 11,600 temporary jobs are at seven government departments, including the Social Welfare Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Hospital Authority. At least 3,500 are specifically for the young. But a further 12,000 people who benefited from the previous job-creation programme might find themselves unemployed again in March, after the government decided to stop funding them.
Officials said temporary jobs were not provided merely for the sake of it but to meet the genuine needs of various government departments.
They also stressed those who lost their temporary jobs might consider enrolling in the youth-placement scheme, youth self-employment scheme or rejoin the improving job market.
The youth unemployment rate dropped from a peak of 38 per cent last May to 27 per cent in the last quarter of 2003, they said.
For the jobless middle-aged, officials said there were still 10,000 places available under the existing $60 million Re-employment Training Programme for the Middle-Aged.
The government also said it would consult the manufacturing trade on the import of labour and a job-creation scheme for local workers under the Cepa framework before the end of the month.
Officials also said they planned to organise a huge recruitment fair in March in collaboration with major business chambers and non-governmental organisations.
Ng Wai-yee, a spokeswoman for the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, welcomed the temporary job-creation scheme but said it was not enough to ease the problem.
Extending 11,000 temporary positions
Extending by two years the Youth Work Experience and Taining Scheme for 10,000 people aged 15-24
Introducing a trial scheme to assist 1,000 young people to become self-employed