Regina Ip calls for relaxation of labour import rules
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Chief Executive candidate Mrs. Regina Ip Lau Suk-Yee has called for a relaxation of importation of labour rules to assist local industry, particularly the catering sector. Mrs. Ip made the plea during a two-day meeting with the catering sub-sector of the Election Committee late last week.

The meetings were closed-door discussions where both parties exchanged views on the current operations and challenges faced by the catering sector. Mrs. Ip explained her positions on various topics, including the MPF offsetting mechanism, standard working hours and innovation and technology. Both parties shared similar views on many of the issues discussed.

Mrs. Ip said she fully understood the operating challenges mentioned by the catering sub-sector representatives, including high rents, rising operating costs, lack of labour and declining business.

“The catering sector currently faces a shortage of labour particularly for the elementary labour intensive tasks and I agree we should consider relaxing the importation of labour scheme. I have already mentioned in my election platform that Hong Kong’s economic development was being inhibited by two major bottlenecks: First, the lack of land hinders the development of industries in various ways. Second, we often encounter labour shortages. The government should strive to provide more land and strengthen local talents while drawing in quality talents from across the globe and allow importation of labour at an appropriate rate.

“The sub-sector's and my views are aligned on standard working hours. The number of working hours differs amongst professions in Hong Kong. For example, it is an industry norm to have long work shifts in the catering sector in order to maintain the expected level of service; it is therefore difficult to uniformly impose standardised working hours. Additionally, the sub-sector representatives think that the use of innovative technology in the catering industries is significantly behind. The government simply does not provide adequate support in promoting automation and increase productivity in the industry. The complex application procedures for related funding also creates unnecessary obstacles inhibiting industry growth.

"I am thrilled that both the New People Party's and my proposal in June 2011 and 2007 respectively to establish the Innovation and Technology Bureau was accepted and implemented by the government. However, this is not sufficient in promoting innovation; the government need to further look into how technology can enable growth across industries." she added.

On the MPF, Mrs. Ip proposed the government make a one-off injection payment to the affected employees, as reimbursement to the portion of lost employees’ benefit accrued before December 2000. This arrangement would compensate the financial losses suffered by the employees, as well as reducing the financial burden on small-to-medium enterprises. In the long run, the government should reform the MPF system, such as consolidating the funds in a step-by-step manner, towards the ultimate goal of a Central Provident Fund. The government should also make contributions to provide better retirement protection to the working poor, thus returning wealth to the society.

This proposal could lessen the burden on the industry. The sub-sector representatives welcomed this recommendation. Apart from discussing issues relating to the catering industry, the sub-sector representatives also showed concern on issues such as public infrastructure, land use, youth's upward mobility and education. Mrs. Ip took the opportunity to elaborate on details of her election platform.

"The representatives considered social harmony as a critical factor that influences business environment. The 'occupy central' movement affected a lot of restaurants and also led to a number of closures. I completely understand the challenging situations they are currently facing. If I were elected, I would use my direct electoral experience to minimise social conflicts and foster harmony. For Hong Kong to move forward, the government will have to forge closer ties with the public, respond better to their needs and facilitate economic growth." Mrs. Ip concluded.

Mrs. Ip and her campaign team will continue to meet with various parties and organizations to promote her policy platform and lobby for support.

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