Part II: The Silver Workplace – Supporting aging workers

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Life expectancies for male and female in Hong Kong have increased to 81.7 years and 87.7 years, one of the longest in the world.

As Hong Kong’s population is ageing, there needs to be more initiatives to help the older people stay in the workforce, said Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong.

He calls on the employers to hire older staff, delay the retirement age and adopt elderly-friendly measures to let the elders continue to work. Apparently, Hong Kong will need them.

“The supply of labour with primary and below educational attainment will further decrease to 717,000 by 2022… and the job vacancies for these workers will drop to 773,000, but the gap between supply and demand will widen,” he said.

The workers Dr Law refers to are mostly aged 50 or above. The shortage of these workers will grow from 8,000 in 2012 to 56,000 by 2022.

What Hong Kong has done and can do

Dr Lam Ching-choi, chairman of the Elderly Commission, speaks to Harbour Times on how to engage the elderly in the workforce.

He cites the Labour Department’s employment programme for the elderly and middle-aged.

Under the programme, job seekers are provided with on-the-job training. Employers hiring those aged 60 or above may receive allowance of up to $4,000 per month per employee for 6 to 12 months, or $3,000 for hiring people aged 40 to below 60.

According to Dr Law, the Labour Department has organized job fairs, recruitment day and employment talks for the elderly job seekers.

Besides measures to help those who are less educated, Dr Lam also suggests other initiatives to engage the professional elderly.

“Some professions are not limited by age. Doctors are one of the examples. After they retire at age of 60, their knowledge won’t be gone and they can still practice,” he says.

“Especially [considering] Hong Kong is a knowledge-based society. Many elders are still capable of working. They can be consultants, trainers or mentors,” he adds.

Dr Lam advocates flexible work arrangement. “They can work on a part-time or project-based basis or even do semi-volunteering work. An elderly accountant can work at a NGO and get one-third of the monthly salary,” he says.

And the elderly and the youth can also team up to be entrepreneurs.

“The elderly have experience and connections, while the youth are creative and more willing to take risks. They can complement each other,” Dr Lam suggests.

He says some startups in the Science Park and the Greater Bay Area are looking to develop products for healthy ageing, and the biomedical sector has vast potential.

“We have seen successful examples of combining the assets from the elderly and the youth. This is one way for the elderly to keep contributing to the society,” he says.

Government figures estimate that by 2066, the number of people aged 65 or above will be 2.59 million, representing one-third of the total population. The government is already taking steps to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65.


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