The Development Bureau, together with the Construction Industry Council (CIC), will provide various training programmes and allowance schemes to attract fresh blood to the construction industry in order to meet manpower needs of future infrastructure projects.
The Financial Secretary announced in the 2010-11 Budget on Wednesday (February 24) that $100 million would be earmarked to support CIC to take forward the measures.
The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, together with Chairman of CIC, Mr Lee Shing-see and Permanent Secretary for Development (Works), Mr Mak Chai-kwong, held a press conference today (February 26) to introduce the measures which cover two main areas.
The first is to provide incentives to attract more people to receive training and re-training in the industry so as to address the ageing problem and skills mismatch in the construction workforce as well as to help enhance the skills and competitiveness of in-service construction workers.
One of the measures is to target trades with an acute ageing problem or having difficulty recruiting trainees. The monthly training allowance of these trades will be increased from about $2,000 to $5,000. Successful graduate trainees will receive a monthly salary of not less than $8,000 from participating employers, and the amount will be raised to not less than $10,000 after six months.
It is estimated that the scheme can initially provide 3,000 more training places in the next three years for workers first joining the industry or existing technicians who want to switch trades.
Another measure is to improve the practices of the construction industry. This will include requiring public works contractors to provide uniforms for workers and improving the working environment on construction sites. It may also include enhancing publicity on various fronts so that more people will know about the construction industry and are willing to join the industry.
Mrs Lam said the Government would be committed to promoting economic development through promoting infrastructure development and creating more employment opportunities for the construction industry. The Government is now taking forward large, medium and small-scale infrastructure projects.
In the 2010-11 financial year, the estimated expenditure for capital works will increase to $49.6 billion. This will provide 62,500 job opportunities. Among them, about 6,600 are for professional/technical staff and about 55,900 are for workers - an increase of 15,400 jobs when compared with 2009-10.
With more and more infrastructure projects coming on stream, the unemployment situation in the construction industry has improved steadily. Overall unemployment dropped from 12.7% at the peak of the financial tsunami (between February and April 2009) to 7.4% (between November 2009 and January 2010), according to figures released recently. Employment population in the industry has risen from 257,300 at the peak of the financial tsunami to 278,100 in the latest quarter, representing an increase of 20,800 or 8.1%.
Referring to the manpower situation in the industry, Mrs Lam pointed out that of about 270,000 workers registered with the Construction Workers Registration Authority, around 60% (more than 160,000 workers) of them are general workers without specialised skills. As such, there is a need to train more skilled workers and enhance the skill level of the industry at large.
Mrs Lam said, "The stand of the Government is that local workers should be given the priority of employment and the required workers should be recruited from the local industry as far as possible. We do not want to see a need to import workers from outside Hong Kong."
To alleviate the difficulties of public works contractors in securing loans during the financial tsunami period, the Development Bureau has put in place a number of temporary mitigation measures since the end of 2008. They are, for example, introducing interim payment arrangement in contracts and releasing part of the retention money after the defects liability period had half expired so as to improve contractors' cash flow problems. As at the end of 2009, a total of 404 contracts have benefited from these measures with an earlier payment of contract monies totalling $780 million.
"The global economy is showing early signs of recovery but the outlook is still uncertain and employment in the industry still not satisfactory, so I have decided to extend the 2008 mitigation measures to the end of 2010."
Mr Lee Shing-see said the CIC highly welcomed the measures proposed by the Government and would give its full support for the introduction of the best practices to improve safety, working environment and conditions on construction sites in public works projects.
"CIC will increase investment in this respect and provide incentives to attract young people to join the trade and improve the practice of the industry," he said.
Ends/Friday, February 26, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:26