Hiring more ethnic minority staff a ‘win-win’ scenario in Hong Kong workplaces, leaders say
Corporate bosses and city’s labour secretary speak of how businesses can champion inclusiveness in the workplace at seminar to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Big companies in Hong Kong say they are hiring more staff from ethnic minorities in a nod to greater workplace diversity, and to lend a more personal touch to their interaction with clients.
On the government’s part, it was relaxing rigid Chinese language requirements for civil service posts, so that more non-native speakers qualified, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said on Wednesday.
The need for businesses to champion inclusiveness and engage with employees from different cultures was discussed at the Equal Opportunities Commission’s seminar to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Close to one in five ethnic minority individuals in Hong Kong are living in poverty, government report shows
Hong Kong has about 254,700 ethnic minority individuals, excluding foreign domestic helpers, according to the 2016 by-census. But many struggle with language proficiency – they may speak Cantonese but cannot read or write traditional Chinese characters – and this affects their ability to go on to university and get jobs.
Law said the government was planning to provide this group with more Cantonese courses, especially language instruction when children were in kindergarten, as “language is a main hurdle for them to find a job”.
“[The kindergarten phase] will be the most important years spent by the child learning the language,” Law said, noting that the government had three years ago introduced lessons in Chinese as a second language from Primary One.
He said there was value in having civil service employees who could speak different languages, highlighting the example of Police Constable Ifzal Zaffar who persuaded a suicidal man to come down from a crane on a construction site by reassuring him in Urdu.
Earlier this month, the government announced it would ease Chinese language requirements for another 22 types of government jobs, making 53 of the over 400 categories of civil service positions open to non-Chinese permanent residents.
Corporate bosses on Wednesday spoke of their organisations’ efforts to boost diversity. One of them was The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, which runs The Peninsula hotel in the city.
People from ethnic minorities made up 3 to 5 per cent of local employees, and this is a “win-win situation,” director of corporate responsibility and sustainability Janice Lao said during one of the two panel discussions.
“We need talent in the hospitality industry and ethnic minority groups need more career opportunities.”
Lao said having individuals from ethnic minorities among the staff had “changed the company culture”. Chinese staff members “changed their view of ethnic minority customers since they personally knew colleagues who were members of that group”.
The panel, moderated by South China Morning Post chief news editor Yonden Lhatoo, also discussed how companies could create a positive working environment for the LGBT community.