13 JAN 2016
Oxfam’s Response to Policy Address 2016
Oxfam Hong Kong expresses its disappointment over the Policy Address which was released today as not a single word concerning the mandatory provident fund (MPF) offsetting issue was mentioned.
The Chief Executive has not proposed any measures over the years nor in this Policy Address to honour his election manifesto of adopting measures to progressively reduce the proportion of accrued benefits attributed to employer's contribution in employees’ MPF accounts that employers can use to offset long-service or severance payments. Though the government stated that the MPF offsetting issue will be discussed in the public engagement exercise on retirement protection, the Chief Executive has not shown much determination to solve the issue.
Elderly poverty is another challenge Oxfam and Hong Kong society at large is concerned about. However, the current MPF offsetting mechanism greatly weakens the retirement protection scheme and leaves retirees vulnerable. Oxfam urges the government, as the largest employer, to take up responsibility for this issue and take the lead in phasing out this mechanism to protect employees who work under non-civil servant and outsourced contracts, setting a good example for companies to follow suit.
Regarding the government’s proposition to strengthen support for non-Chinese speaking kindergarten students, Oxfam welcomes the idea and urges the government to implement effective measures to support schools. Oxfam has always been concerned about the issue of intergenerational poverty among ethnic minority communities, and believes that improving their Chinese proficiency is vital to enhancing their competitiveness.
Although the government introduced the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework in the 2014 Policy Address to support non-Chinese speaking students’ Chinese language learning, the Framework does not apply to kindergartens or pre-primary education. As Oxfam considers that the best time for children to learn a language is under the age of six, we propose that the government extend the Framework to kindergartens and support schools that admit ethnic minorities through the hiring of extra teachers to offer ‘Chinese Enhancement Classes’. Through these classes, teachers can then assist ethnic minority kindergarteners in their Chinese learning, improve their Chinese abilities and enable them to attend the same classes as their Chinese counterparts in Primary One.
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Oxfam is a worldwide development organisation that mobilises the power of people against poverty.
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