Walter (Walter TSUI, Co-founder and CEO, CareER), honourable guests and friends, good morning.
It gives me tremendous joy to be back at this meaningful event to speak to you all. Since my first visit to the Fair back in 2019, the event has grown from strength to strength. CareER’s pioneering vision to unlock the potential of talents with disabilities continues to bear fruit, as evidenced by the record number of 38 inclusive employers present here today. I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Walter and his team for their remarkable success in uniting allies from different industries to join the journey of building an inclusive Hong Kong.
We live in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. To succeed and stay relevant in this environment, businesses and organisations need to mirror the diversity of the communities they serve in their workforce. However, there remains an ingrained assumption in our society that hiring persons with disabilities and providing them with reasonable support to flourish in the workplace burden employers.
Let me illustrate this with a few figures from a study we published earlier this year, which looked at the experiences of young persons with disabilities transitioning from school to work. While over 85% of the employers we surveyed said they were willing to hire individuals with disabilities with post-secondary education, more than half of them also expressed concerns about the cost of installing barrier-free facilities in the workplace. Around 52% of the respondents also expressed concerns about the costs involved in training employees with disabilities.
These findings reveal that many employers want to hire talents with disabilities, but practical concerns are holding them back. So, how can we transform this aspiration into action?
One tangible measure to alleviate some of these practical concerns is to provide incentives for employers to hire persons with disabilities. As part of our submission for the 2023 Policy Address Public Consultation, we recommended the Government to give extra tax deduction to companies with employees with disabilities. In addition, increasing the subsidy for employers to purchase assistive devices and make workplace modifications is another potential solution worth exploring.
Regarding legal protection, the EOC sees the need to amend the Disability Discrimination Ordinance and introduce a positive duty for employers to provide reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Requiring listed companies to disclose their efforts towards creating inclusive workplaces can also encourage more employers to take proactive steps to diversify their workforce.
However, policy changes alone are not enough. For disability inclusion to truly permeate the workplace, there needs to be a fundamental shift in our culture. Conventional thinking tells us that inclusive measures only benefit those with disabilities. But the truth is, when we address the needs of persons with disabilities, the benefits extend to everyone.
We can find evidence for this all around us in everyday life. Wheelchair ramps make accessing facilities easier not just for wheelchair users but also parents with strollers, workers moving heavy goods and travellers with suitcases. Likewise, flexible work arrangements, such as flexi-time or hybrid work, allow not only talents with disabilities but all employees better balance personal needs and work responsibilities. I’m sure many of us have experienced this ourselves over the past few years.
And it’s not just individuals who benefit; companies do too. Study after study has shown a clear business case for actively cultivating and fostering a diverse workforce. According to the World Economic Forum, companies that embrace disability inclusion are two times more likely to have higher total shareholder returns than their peers. And of course, we don’t need to look far today to find success stories. Every single organisation in attendance can attest to the fact that diversity and inclusion makes sound business sense.
After a few challenging years, Hong Kong’s post-pandemic economic recovery is well underway. But when the employment rate of persons with disabilities is three times lower than that of the general population, we are keeping a powerful engine of growth idle. We are also neglecting the dreams and aspirations of many young people, and our society is all the worse for it.
Through forging partnerships across sectors and uniting allies from different fields, CareER’s Inclusive Recruitment Fair and the Disability Inclusion Index are changing this reality. Each company present today is making indispensable contributions towards creating an inclusive future, where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive and fulfil their potential.
Last but not least, I think the spirit of CareER’s innovative initiative can be adapted for the benefit of those having different cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds as well, for example, people who have different religious beliefs, people who wear a hijab, as well as people who migrated from other places to Hong Kong. We firmly believe that a diverse workforce are helpful to an organisation by making it more innovative, adaptive and resilient.
So, thank you Walter and everyone in attendance for championing the cause of disability inclusion, and for giving opportunities for the next generation to flourish. Finally, I want to give my best wishes to all the bright, young people here today. You all have unique talent and skills, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for a job that allows your brilliance to shine.
Thank you very much.