Providing Value-added Training and Formulating Friendly Policies;
Supporting the Middle-aged and Elderly to Re-enter the Job Market
In early 2019, the Chief Executive of the HKSAR, Mrs. Carrie Lam announced that there would be an adjustment on the eligible age for the application of Elderly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme and it would be raised from the age of 60 to 65 with effect from February 2019. She assured the mass public that different government departments and organizations concerned would be capable of providing various forms of career guidance and assistance to the elderly in need. In September last year, the Labour Department had even optimized the "Employment Programme for the Elderly and Middle-aged (EPEM)", by encouraging employers to engage and hire the unemployed job seekers who are aged 60 or above through the provision of an on-thejob training allowance of up to $4,000 per month per employee for 6 to 12 months. In this issue, we have invited several human resources and recruitment agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which are specialized in developing the "silver market" and assisting the senior citizens in Hong Kong, in order to better understand the market needs and trends, employers' expectations and requirements on the aged candidates, potential career challenges and future prospects of the elderly workers, and the training available for the aged people in the local silver-haired market.
In the past three years, around 180 unemployed job seekers who were aged 55 or above had received career counselling and on-the-job support services from the "Employment Assistance Programme for the Elderly" by Hong Kong Employment Development Service. Miss Rachel Chan Wai Ting, who is the Senior Counseling Officer of Hong Kong Employment Development Service, said traditionally there were more senior citizens taking frontline roles, such as security guards, salespersons and cleaners. However, in recent years, there is a growing trend in the number of senior citizens taking clerical duties in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong. She said, with regard to the nature of a specific industry, different employers may have a range of requirements and expectations on the elderly candidates about their academic backgrounds. "Taking Security Officers in the property management industry in Hong Kong as examples, the aged applicants are expected to have completed Form 5 secondary education or even higher education. They are also anticipated to possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills which are essential in the workplace."
Provision of Career Matching and Referral Services;
Avoiding Mismatches between the Aged Talents and Market Demands
While there is a growing number of Hong Kong people reaching the prescribed retirement age, some of them have shown their preference to stay in the workforce. Dr. Kim K.W. MAK, BBS, JP, who is the Chairman of Hong Kong Society for the Aged, said its Elder-Friendly Employment Practice (EFEP) has been promoting and supporting the concept of meritocracy in our society. As a matter of fact, there is an ever-increasing elderly population in Hong Kong. These senior citizens are still in excellent physical and mental conditions, and they possess satisfying education qualifications. They can hopefully be the next engine of growth for Hong Kong." Dr. Mak expressed that the Elder-Friendly Employment Practice was first launched in 2014 to empower the elderly to re-enter the job market and serve the community. At the same time, it encourages employers to consider the capabilities of these retirees whilst maintaining a more stable and diversified workforce. "Under the Elderfriendly Employment Practice, a website and a mobile app have been developed in order to provide a platform for the elderly job seekers to search for suitable job vacancies, and for the employers to recruit capable senior citizens. This can get the best of both worlds by fully utilizing the hidden potential, vibrant personalities and incredible wisdom of the new older generation, and help lowering the chances of mismatches between the elderly job seekers and market demands."
Association of Retired Elderly (ARE) Limited positions itself as a nonprofit making organization which specializes in the provision of matching and referral services for the middle-aged and elderly in Hong Kong. Dr. Teresa Chu Ching Wah, who is the Founding Chairperson of the Association of Retired Elderly, pointed out that the employers in certain industries expect the aged candidates to possess special work experience, qualifications or networks. S e n i o r Technology Consultants and Sales Representatives for selling senior care products and services are some of the examples. Employers in these industries have a tendency to hire aged candidates with relevant working experience. "When the elderly are willing to re-enter the enterprises or the industries as consultants, they are indeed making great contributions to society, nurturing the younger generations by passing on their skills and knowledge, and making good use of their past work experience in a meaningful way."
Well-educated and Experienced Elderly Instructors
Earning Hourly Wages with Flexible Working Hours
In order to enable the retirees to continue making good use of their professional skills and knowledge, Link Education has first launched the "Silver-haired Teacher Programme" to hire retirees-to-be or retired persons as academic instructors. Mr. James Fong Wan Lung, who is the Founder of Link Education, said the Programme was initiated 3 years ago. "Senior citizens with high academic qualifications are employed to help primary and secondary school students keep abreast with their learning curves at their schools, provide guidance and share their life experience with the students." Since last year, Link Education started providing new training courses to equip senior citizens who possess post-secondary or tertiary education qualifications as academic instructors. Around 15 senior citizens are admitted in each batch and they will receive 8-lesson intensive training within half a month. Through the training, they will acquire knowledge in curriculum design, activity leadership and teaching techniques. They will also explore and discuss the difficulties encountered by students in order to accumulate more knowledge and experience in handling various classroom issues and students' behavioral problems nowadays. On top of that, Link Education will arrange workshops and information sharing sessions, and invite psychologists, social workers and current teachers to share their experience in handling typical cases of students' behavioral problems with these "silver-haired teachers". James said there are 10 regular teachers with fixed-term contracts and around 20 part-time teachers under the "Silverhaired Teacher Programme". Half of these aged teachers possess a bachelor degree and half of them even have a master degree or above. "These silverhaired teachers are well qualified to be registered teachers in Hong Kong. They are arranged to teach Chinese and English writing skills, designated subjects at secondary education level, or all-subjects at primary education level in small classes. They will also offer homework help to non-ethnic Chinese (NEC) students."
Elder Care Products in Great Demand;
Elderly Models are Desperately Wanted
When it comes to "models", most people can instantly think of young and energetic boys and girls who are in their teens or early twenties. Much to people's surprise, the elderly can also be capable models. "OHH Dear Communications" is the everfirst one-stop model agency and marketing company in Hong Kong which specializes in the provision of aged models. Miss Zip Cheung Ngai Ting, who is the Founder and CEO of OHH Dear Communications, said the company has around 40 elderly models at present, with the oldest being 94 years old. Around 80% of their elderly models are "young-olds" aged 70 or below. "OHH Dear Communications, which is a social enterprise, acts like a model agency, offering freelance contracts, professional training in drama and voice-over, and catwalk coaching to the aged models."
Zip continued that OHH Dear Communications provides job opportunities to the elderly models and offers one-stop marketing solutions to corporates and advertisers. "Our aged models mainly engage in photo and video shooting. Sometimes, television broadcasting companies invite our elderly models as the hosts of their TV programmes. On rare occasions, our aged models may even take part in fashion shows." Established in 2016, OHH Dear Communications has already completed over 100 modelling jobs. Besides appearing in advertisements concerning elderly care products and services, the aged models take part in other advertisements related to the banking, insurance, home product industries, etc.
Restaurants Hiring Aged Waiters and Waitresses;
Offering Pre-job Training on Hospitality
Garden View Lounge Restaurant, which has been operated by Hong Kong Young Women's Christian Association (HKYWCA) for 8 years, has hired around 30 retirees as waiters or waitresses. Mr. Veason So Wai Shun, who is the Manager of the Social Business Development Committee of HKYWCA, said the restaurant has been providing a meaningful and fulfilling platform for the elderly to shine after their prescribed retirement age. "The restaurant mainly focuses on the provision of breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea catering services. It is operated between 11am and 4pm." He said, the restaurant has 8 aged waiters and waitresses at present, with an average age of 60. "The restaurant has a shift work employment policy. These aged waiters and waitresses only need to work 5 hours a day, twice or thrice a week. The restaurant is the busiest during lunch hours. It plans to hire 4 to 6 more aged waiters and waitresses in the foreseeable future." As for all the chefs, assistant chefs and cleaners in this restaurant, they are full-time staff with an average age of 50.
Various Organizations Offering Training Programmes
Assisting the Elderly to Re-enter the Job Market
At present, there are numerous organizations providing vocational training programmes to the middleaged and elderly to assist them in re-entering the job market . A representative from the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) said with reference to the needs of the middleaged and elderly, three categories of vocational training programmes are offered. Under the category of "Foundation Certificates in Workplace Re-entry Programmes", there are two training courses which specialize in adjusting the mindset of the learners about their re-entry to the job market, building their confidence, raising their communicative competencies and polishing their personal qualities. All these are aimed at offering career guidance and assistance to the middle-aged and elderly in Hong Kong to welcome their re-entry to the workforce and make contributions to society.