Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 (2021/07/07)

Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 (2021/07/07)

MR YIU SI-WING (in Cantonese): Deputy President, owing to historical reasons, there are two kinds of holidays in Hong Kong that are commonly known as "bank holidays" and "labour holidays". The Chief Executive has put forward a series of initiatives in 2020 to further improve people's livelihood, and one of which is to increase progressively the number of "labour holidays" so that it will be on a par with the number of "bank holidays". Taking into account the different views of employers and employees, the Government has eventually decided to increase the number of statutory holidays ("SHs") with one additional day every two years progressively from 2022 so as to achieve the goal of adding five SHs in 2030, in a bid to improve employment benefits and assist employers to ensure appropriate transition. A number of Members have proposed amendments to the Government's proposals this time and many of them suggest advancing the pace of increasing the number of SHs, but I think they are inappropriate. I support the Government's original motion for the following reasons.


Firstly, given that the economy of Hong Kong is dominated by the service industries, significant implications will arise if the pace of increasing the number of SHs is too fast. Hong Kong is one of the most services-oriented economies in the world, with the services sector accounting for 93.4% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2019. Most of the employees in the service industry are entitled to "labour holidays", and many of them are engaging in the consumption and tourism related sectors. As general holidays often fall within the peak season of the tourism and consumption sectors when employers need more manpower, an additional day of holiday will necessitate the input of additional resources by the employers to arrange shifts and rest days of employees. This will affect a wide range of enterprises, and employers will have to make adjustment progressively. Therefore, I consider the pacing proposed by the Government more appropriate.


Secondly, as small and medium enterprises ("SMEs") accounted for the most companies in Hong Kong and they are of limited scale, it may take them longer time to adapt to the changes. Currently, there are over 340 000 SMEs in Hong Kong, covering 98% of Hong Kong's business establishments and employing about 45% of the workforce in the private sector. Many of these SMEs, which employ less than 10 employees, are micro-enterprises. Take travel agencies as an example. In Hong Kong, there are 1 700 travel agencies, most of which are micro-enterprises hiring several or just one or two employees. Adding a few days of holidays may not be a problem for large enterprises and organizations, but it can be a heavy burden for companies of smaller scales. Even if employers are willing to put in resources to increase the number of holidays for their employees, they may not have the financial ability to hire more staff or find suitable part-time substitute workers. As a result, employers of these small companies often have to take up the work themselves when their employees are on leave. Let us think about it. While it is not easy for employers to run a small company, they even have to take up the work of employees when they are on holidays. The proposal to increase the number of holidays will generate additional financial pressure and workload on employers.


Thirdly, it is the changing landscape of labour force in Hong Kong. The problem of labour shortage will worsen after an increase in the number of holidays. Despite the low fertility rate in Hong Kong, the average life expectancy of Hong Kong people is one of the longest in the world, causing the problem of ageing population to deteriorate. Ageing population will result in a decrease in labour force on the one hand, and on the other hand, increase the demand for services that are targeted at elderly people. Before the epidemic, Hong Kong was close to full employment and a lot of industries have already expressed difficulties in hiring staff. According to the projection of the Government, there will be a serious manpower shortage of 170 000 by 2027. Although the fertility rate of Hong Kong remains one of the lowest in the world, our demographic structure has been relatively healthy. This is attributable to the immigration of young and middle-aged people from the Mainland in the past. The Government estimated that Mainland immigrants make up at least one fifth of Hong Kong's population, and are crucial in replenishing Hong Kong's labour force in all sectors. However, with the growing economic development of the Mainland, it is expected that the number of new immigrants coming to Hong Kong will gradually decrease in the future, creating a larger gap to the already tight labour market.


President, for the above reasons, it is expected that employers will have difficulty in hiring enough staff after the epidemic. An increase in the number of holidays will indeed cause operational difficulties to SMEs. Therefore, I consider it a reasonable arrangement to add one SH every two years starting from 2022.


I so submit.