HK Magazine Archive

Forget Maternity Leave, Hong Kong Calls on Grandparents for Childcare

The details of a 60-hour training course funded by the government remain murky.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2016, 2:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:00pm

Sipping a martini on the beach sound like a great retirement plan to you? Forget about it: The Hong Kong government has other plans for grandparents.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying set aside $3.3 million from the Lotteries Fund for the Pilot Project on Child Care Training for Grandparents—a new scheme to train seniors to take care of children. The course, according to the 2016 Budget, is the government’s attempt to help women “manage family commitments alongside work.”

The course is 60 hours in total, and it will be run by nine NGOs. While the program makes reference to teaching materials published by the Employees Retraining Board (ERB), the ERB itself will not be part of the actual training, its spokesman Sin Hok-leung says.

There will be a quota of 540 seniors for the first phase of the training course, which begins at the end of this month. Li Hoi, Deputy Executive Director of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions’ Training Center, suggests increasing the quota. “It is a good idea, re-engaging the retired to the workforce.”

Li speculates that the course’s content will be more or less the same as other standardized baby-minding courses, which usually educate grandparents on modern childcare methods.

Lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, the vice-chairman of the Labour Party, this week demanded the government consider ways to support inter-generational families instead of simply re-training grandparents for childcare during a Legislative Council Meeting. The Legco agenda on the Panel on Welfare Services on March 14 reveals a vague outline of the program with a list of objectives, including, “Preparation for grandparenthood, effective communication and enhancing inter-generational relationships.”

When HK Magazine asked the Labour and Welfare Bureau for more details regarding the pensioners’ training course, a spokesperson declined to answer.

When HK Magazine asked one of the NGOs running the training course, Yan Oi Tong, for further details, it could not give any.

Any senior who completes the course will be given a certificate. The trade unions’ Li says that “the certificate could prove that the grandparent is eligible for child caring, it could be their ticket to part-time jobs.”

Bearing in mind that grandparents have been parents before, the need to teach them how to care for babies remains questionable: So how can the program attract pensioners? Li says that the satisfaction of being able to serve not only their families, but also the community is large enough of an incentive. “And well, financial subsidies always do the trick,” he says.