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LCQ2: Labour supply in the construction industry

Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (May 7):

Question:

In February this year, the Construction Industry Council formulated a labour-supply list on 26 trades in the construction industry.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows (i)the mode of employment of workers (being employed or self-employed), (ii) the method of calculation of wages, and (iii) the average number of working hours per week of each worker, in respect of each of the 26 trades at present, and set out such information in Table 1;

Table 1
-------
Trade                   (i)  (ii)  (iii)
                       ---  ----  -----
1. Bar bender & fixer
2. Carpenter (Formwork)
....
25. Trackworker
26. Shotfirer

(2) whether it knows (i) the number of people employed, (ii) the number of job seekers, (iii) the number of job vacancies, (iv) the vacancy rate, and (v) the number of industrial accidents, in respect of each of the 26 trades in each of the past five years, and set out such figures in tables of the same format as Table 2;

Table 2   Year: ________
-------

Trade                      (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v)
-----                      --- ---- ----- ---- ---
1. Bar bender & fixer
2. Carpenter (Formwork)
....
25. Trackworker
26. Shotfirer

(3) whether it knows the total number of training courses provided by the Vocational Training Council and the Construction Industry Council (including the training bodies under them) for the 26 trades in the past five years, as well as the (i) name, (ii) years in which the course was offered, (iii) number of training places, (iv) entry requirements, (v) training period, and (vi) employment rate of graduated trainees, in respect of each of the training courses, and set out such information by trade and training body in tables of the same format as Table 3; and

Table 3  Trade: ________
-------

Training body
-------------
(i)
(ii)
(iii)
(iv)
(v)
(vi)

(4) whether the authorities have formulated new measures to attract local people to join the construction industry to work in the 26 trades, and to reduce the manpower wastage in those trades; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

As the coordinating body of the construction industry, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) set up a Task Force on Short-term Labour Supply (the Task Force) (Note: The Task Force comprises representatives of the Hong Kong Construction Association, the Hong Kong Federation of Electrical & Mechanical Contractors Ltd., the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union, the Federation of Hong Kong Electrical and Mechanical Industries Trade Unions, Construction Site Workers General Union of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, MTR Corporation Ltd., the Housing Authority and the Development Bureau.) in January 2014.  After thorough discussion, the Task Force has identified 26 trades with manpower shortage and their standard recruitment requirements (including close to market wage levels).  CIC will regularly review the list of trades with manpower shortage to reflect the latest market situation.  The information will be for reference of contractors, the Labour Department and the Labour Advisory Board.  CIC may also make reference to the list in reviewing and adjusting its training programmes as appropriate to better meet the market needs.  The list of the 26 trades with manpower shortage and their standard recruitment requirements are available at the following CIC webpage: http://www.cic.hk/cic_data/pdf/research_and_data_analytics/Short_term_labour_supply/eng/Recruitment%20requirements_e_26%20trades_20150304.pdf .

My reply to the four parts of the Honourable Kwok’s question is as follows:

(1) To our understanding, sub-contracting is a common practice adopted in most of the trades in the construction industry.  Sub-contractors employ skilled workers to undertake the works of the relevant trades and some of them also participate in the works themselves. Thus, there are both employed and self-employed workers in the industry.  The methods of calculation of wages are agreed between employers and employees.  Generally speaking, the calculation can be made in terms of daily wages, monthly wages or on piece-rated basis.  We do not have information on the modes of employment and methods of calculation of wages for individual trades.

Please refer to Annex I for the average number of working days per week of workers in the trades with manpower shortage.  Given the physically demanding nature of the construction activities, workers in certain trades working more than four days a week are considered to be fully engaged.

(2) Regarding items (i) to (iv) in the question, CIC has no breakdown of employment figures for individual trades with manpower shortage.  As at end 2013, there were about 322 000 registered construction workers in Hong Kong.  According to the estimates of CIC, about 70 000 of them were not currently working in the construction industry.  According to the General Household Survey of the Census and Statistics Department, there were more than 10 000 unemployed workers as at end 2013.  In this connection, there were about 240 000 in-service registered workers (including underemployed workers) working in the industry in that period.  Besides, CIC estimates that there is a shortage of about 10 000 workers in the industry, including both general and skilled workers in early 2014.

Over the years, the Government has taken various initiatives to enhance site safety.  According to the Labour Department's information, the overall accident rate (per 1 000 workers) in the construction industry has dropped from 54.6 to 40.8 during the period from 2009 to 2013.  Over the same period, the accident rate in the public works sector has also been decreased from 11.6 to 7.3.  The Labour Department does not have the relevant accident statistics by trades.

(3) Regarding the 26 trades with manpower shortage, CIC and the Vocational Training Council have provided training for certain trades in the past five years.   Please refer to Annex II for the details.

(4) To cope with the manpower challenges of the construction industry, we have implemented a series of measures, including obtaining a total of $320 million from the Legislative Council in 2010 and 2012 to support CIC to strengthen its role in training local construction personnel and to enhance promotion and publicity activities to attract more people to join the industry, especially young people.

CIC has implemented various training initiatives and conducted training courses to address the manpower demand.  Amongst others, we collaborate with CIC to launch the "Enhanced Construction Manpower Training Scheme (ECMTS)" to train a target of 6 000 semi-skilled workers by end 2014 for trades with projected labour shortage, acute ageing or recruitment difficulties.  To diversify the modes of training and provide more training places, CIC will continue to implement the "Contractors Cooperative Training Scheme", whereby contractors hire trainees and train them on-site for the relevant trades.

To advance the skill levels of the in-service workers and cope with the skills mismatch problem, we provide subsidies for specified training courses (Note: The construction workers satisfying the requirement of possessing an aggregate of not less than six years' relevant working experience on a trade before December 29, 2005 are eligible for registration as registered skilled workers (provisional). They can be registered as skilled workers after attending specified training course and passing its assessment.) to encourage workers possessing relevant experience to register as skilled workers.  We also provide subsidies for trade tests and skills enhancement courses for trades with relatively lower passing rates of trade tests to facilitate in-service workers possessing relevant skills to register as semi-skilled or skilled workers.  These measures also help in-service workers to join the trades with manpower shortage to address the manpower demand.

To attract more new blood to join the construction industry, we will continue to collaborate with CIC to implement the "Build Up Publicity Campaign" to uplift the image of industry.  Major initiatives recently launched include the "Build Up Ambassadors" to promote the industry, and a new TV drama series launched in early 2014 on the industry (Dreams Come True), and trade and industry posters, etc.  Further, we have strived to improve the working conditions on construction sites and will continue to implement various initiatives to enhance the caring and safety culture in the industry.  The measures include improving site tidiness, providing additional welfare facilities on site, stepping up safety training for workers, and enhancing promotion and publicity of site safety.

In addition to the above initiatives, CIC rolled out several new initiatives in mid 2013 to attract new entrants to join and continuously working in the construction industry.  Such initiatives include providing subsidies to students who are committed to join the electrical and mechanical (E&M) apprenticeship after completing the basic craft certificate courses of the Vocational Training Council with a view to enhancing the manpower resource for E&M trade in the industry.  In mid 2013, CIC rolled out the "On-The-Job Training Subsidy Scheme" to provide subsidies to contractors for nurturing semi-skilled workers who have completed the ECMTS to enhance their productivity.

Attachment:

Ends/Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:15

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