EOC Organizes Public Forum to Solicit Views on Promoting Equal Opportunities in Hong Kong
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) held a Public Forum today (13 November 2014) to engage stakeholders in discussing the Commission’s work in promoting equal opportunities in Hong Kong.
Organized for the third year, the Forum serves to bring the stakeholders together to participate in discussions on important equal opportunity issues. It is a valuable platform for the EOC to learn about the community’s concerns and develop ways to tackle discrimination issues effectively.
To enhance transparency and accountability, Dr. York CHOW, Chairperson of the EOC, presented two of the Commission’s major strategic work priorities in the coming year : (i) appealing for measures to enhance learning Chinese as a second language by the ethnic minority (EM) students, and (ii) advocating for the effective implementation of Integrated Education for students with special educational needs (SEN). The issue of age discrimination in employment in Hong Kong was also raised as a new area of concern and action.
Dr. CHOW said, “The EOC has long been concerned about discrimination issues affecting our youngsters. In particular, we have set our priority on striving for equal educational opportunities for EM students as well as students with SEN. The lack of a second-language curriculum in Chinese has hampered the EM students for years. Besides, many students with SEN are not getting the support they need to ensure their effective education. The barriers these students face will affect their ability to participate in society later in life, including in higher education and employment.”
In response to the Commission’s repeated appeals to the Government to commit to broader and longer-term support for EM students and students with SEN, the Chief Executive announced in this year’s Policy Address that the Government would provide additional resources in 2014/15 and beyond to address the issues faced by these students.
At the Forum, Dr. Catherine KK CHAN, Deputy Secretary for Education (Curriculum & Quality Assurance Branch), and Miss Hera CHUM, Principal Assistant Secretary (Special Education & Kindergarten Education), provided an update on the Government’s initiatives to address the problems that EM students faced in learning Chinese, and remove the barriers and inadequacies of the existing Integrated Education System; as well as the yardsticks for measuring the effectiveness of these initiatives and the way forward.
“Responding to the stakeholders’ concern that age discrimination in employment was a worrying problem, the EOC accords a high priority to the issue which is not covered under the current anti-discrimination law. We commissioned an ‘Exploratory Study on Age Discrimination in Employment’ in June this year, and the research report is expected to be ready in the second half of 2015. The EOC hopes to arouse more public discussions on the needs to introduce legal protection from age discrimination,” Dr. CHOW remarked.
To increase stakeholders’ understanding on this new area of work, Professor Randy CHIU, Director of the Centre for Human Resources Strategy and Development of Hong Kong Baptist University and a former EOC Member, shared his research on ‘Managing Age Smart Employees’ at the Forum.
In reviewing the EOC’s past performance, Dr. CHOW explained the Commission’s continual efforts in improving its operational efficiency by shortening the average complaints handling time and increasing the successful conciliation rate. For 2013/14, the successful conciliation rate was enhanced to 74%, compared to 72% for 2012/13. During the year, the EOC answered 16,756 enquiries and handled 827 complaints. 74 % of the complaints received by the EOC were employment-related. By respective ordinance, 57% of the complaints were on the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), 34% on Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), 6% on Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO), and 3% on Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (FSDO).
Under the SDO, sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination were the major types of complaints, each taking up over 30% of the cases. As for DDO cases, most of the employment complaints were related to sick leave and work injuries, while the non-employment cases were mostly related to the provision of goods, services and facilities, as well as access to premises.
In elaborating the EOC’s on-going undertakings, Dr. CHOW highlighted the EOC’s ongoing campaigns against sexual harassment in education and in the workplace, as well as the work to promote accessibility design and equal access to information for people with disabilities.
In conclusion, Dr. CHOW said, “Hong Kong is standing at the crossroads of change and an extraordinary moment in its history. Over the last year, we saw simmering tensions and a worrying trend of increasing intolerance. Yet, at this juncture of potential divisiveness, we reiterate the importance of mutual respect which is a core value underpinning inclusion, equality and acceptance, without which there can be no social cohesion.” He called upon collaborative efforts from people in all sectors to build a truly caring and inclusive society.
Over 400 representatives from NGOs, concern groups, business organizations, government departments, employers’ organizations, unions, schools and educational institutes attended the Forum held at Shek Mun Campus of Hong Kong Baptist University. The participants exchanged their views enthusiastically at the discussion sessions, which were moderated by Dr. John TSE, Convenor of the EOC’s Policy and Research Committee, and Ms. Susanna CHIU, Convenor of the Administration and Finance Committee.
For media enquiries, please contact Ms. Mariana LAW at 2106-2226.
Equal Opportunities Commission
13 November 2014