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Ming Wai Lau

財政獨立=搬出來住?青年唔係咁諗

談到青年財政獨立,一般都會想像到年輕人搬離家中,自給自足的畫面。但最新的調查顯示,青年未必同意這個說法。

在上年五月至七月期間,我們委託香港教育大學轄下的香港研究學院,就財政獨立的議題進行街頭訪問及聚焦小組討論,成功訪問了1,073位21至35歲的香港青年。到底財政獨立對當今青年有何意義?我們的問卷調查結果,或許值得參考。

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圖片來源:BlueSkyImage/Shutterstock

圖片來源:BlueSkyImage/Shutterstock

誰能財政獨立?

在聚焦小組的討論中,不少受訪者認為財政獨立能讓自己更有安全感,並表示不希望總是依賴家庭/別人。不過,是次問卷調查的結果顯示,過半數(55.8%)的受訪青年認為自己現在未能做到財政獨立。而在工作狀況為全職的受訪者中,有59.3%認為自己現在可以做到財政獨立;至於在學的受訪者中,則只有17.1%能做到財政獨立。

我們又發現,即使是教育程度達研究院課程的受訪者中,也有接近四成(38.7%)認為自己未能做到財政獨立;而在教育程度達學士學位課程的受訪者中,也有多於一半(51.4%)認為自己未能夠做到財政獨立。至於教育程度為「專上非學位」、「中學/預科」的,更分別有61.1%及66.9%認為自己未能做到財政獨立。

甚麼是財政獨立?

早在1996年,已有海外研究就財政獨立(Financially independent)作出定義[1],將群居、非住院(non-institutional)獨居、參軍,以及結婚後搬離家中的青年視為財政獨立;反而言之,任何住院及仍與家人同住的青年,不論有個人收入與否,將一律被視之為未能財政獨立。

但在是次調查中,香港青年似乎未有將搬離家中或擁有居住房屋,視為達致財政獨立的必要條件。只有不足三成的受訪青年,認為「搬出來住」及「擁有自己的物業」為財政獨立之必要條件,分別佔29.6%及26.6%。而在問及達致財政獨立所需的月入水平時,受訪青年亦彷彿未有考慮到住屋開支的問題。大部分受訪青年(30.9%)認為,每月個人收入達港幣20,001至30,000元,就足以達致財政獨立;21.5%則認為收入要達港幣30,001至40,000元。在這一方面,在職與在學青年的意見相若,分歧不大。

那到底甚麼是財政獨立呢?歸納調查結果,對於一眾年輕的受訪者而言,「財政獨立」主要有三種意思:(一)不用依賴父母的財政支援;(二)收入足夠負擔支出(包括日常消費),並開始儲蓄;以及(三)達致財務自由,能夠自由運用自己的財富及金錢。

圖片來源:newleafautofinance

圖片來源:newleafautofinance

都是土地問題的錯?

青年之所以未將「搬出來住」視為財政獨立的必要條件,或許是出於一種「非不想,實不能也」的心態。在2010年有本地研究曾指出,青年對家庭的經濟倚賴時間延長,而箇中的主要原因,正是未能解決個人住屋問題。[2]而在今次研究中,亦有聚焦小組參加者坦言,雖然月入約一萬至二萬元已可應付基本生活開支,但若要加上居住開支,財政獨立只會顯得遙遙無期。另一方面,大部分在職受訪者都承認,雖然没有依賴家庭的金錢支援,但大多仍與父母同住,同時亦往往受其他形式的財政支援,例如代為支付手提電話月費、間竭性的少量現金支援,又或者其他家庭開支。

事實上,居住開支難以負擔的問題,不是香港青年獨有的困境。美國有研究就發現,比起以往的世代,千禧世代(Millennials)的年輕人較多與家人同住。根據調查結果,在2016年的25-35歲美國年輕人之中,有15%仍與家人同住,比起2000年的10%及1990年的11%為高。研究又發現,青年有工作與否,並非導致青年與家人同住的原因,其他因素如獨自居住所需的成本、青年的負債,才是影響他們決定的主因。[3]

當然,將問題歸咎於單一原因,也非理性的做法。青年對家庭經濟倚賴的時間延長,絕不是一句「土地問題」就可以清楚解釋明白。有海外研究也指出,教育水平的上升,推遲了青年投身社會工作的年齡,並令他們普遍背負更多學債,也是延遲青年達致財政獨立的原因之一。[4]但無可否認,昂貴的樓價與居住開支,正是青年邁向財政獨立時的一大障礙。

圖片來源:東網

圖片來源:東網

收入不足才是大問題

若從另一個角度分析,居住開支難以負擔,其實亦意味著青年收入不足的問題。上文也提及過,較多受訪青年認為,每月個人收入達港幣20,000元以上,便足以達致財政獨立。但就政府的統計數據看來,要達到此月入水平,也不是一朝一夕的事。

根據政府統計處的2016年中期人口普查,在擁有學士學位的群組當中,也要到30-34歲每月職業收入中位數才能達到港幣26,790元;而對於最高教育程度達文憑/證書或副學位的群組而言,更要到35-39歲,每月收入的中位數才能達到20,000元的水平。 [5]

圖一:按年齡、教育程度劃分的每月主要職業收入

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 11.09.24 AM

資料來源:政府統計處

青年收入偏低的問題,其實早已不是新鮮事,而且有惡化的趨勢。有本地研究就發現, 在過去的二十年間,雖然青年的教育程度有顯著增長,但擁有大學學歷青年的勞工收入卻有所下跌。[6]有海外研究就指出,青年的收入是影響他們能否做到財政獨立的主因之一。[7]由此看來,要幫助香港青年達致財政獨立,首要的事項就是要改善他們收入偏低的問題。

授之以魚,不如授之以漁

不過,除了減輕居住開支的負擔及增加青年收入之外,培養他們自身的理財能力,也同樣重要。在這方面,父母自少耳濡目染的身教尤其重要。在回答現在可以做到財政獨立的受訪者當中,接近一半(49%)認為「父母在理財方面有良好身教」是他們做到財政獨立的最重要因素。聚焦小組中的受訪者對此亦有相似的看法。他們大多都認同,要養成良好的理財習慣,影響最深的是家人的理財觀念及消費習慣。有受訪者表示,家人從少灌輸積穀防饑的觀念,讓他學懂因應收入減少娛樂。

圖片來源:PowerMeded Team

圖片來源:PowerMeded Team

相比起來,學校方面提供的理財教育,成效未如理想。有受訪者不諱言道:「我諗喺教育制度下,係冇教過我哋點樣去理財嘅。」而另一受訪者亦認為,學校對個人理財習慣及觀念的影響「應該係零」。部分人指出,不少理財教育的活動吸引力低,同學一般對學校的理財教育活動不感興趣,收到的小冊子也只會「用嚟攝下嘢」。要加強青年的理財教育,可從質量兩方面入手。首先,學校可考慮將理財教育納入課程;其次,需確保有關理財教育的教材能引起青年的興趣。

助青年邁向財政獨立

圖片來源:bean counting

圖片來源:bean counting

財政獨立,是每個青年邁向成人的第一步,也是一班社會未來棟樑脫離父母的庇蔭,獨立組織新家庭的必經階段。因此,青年財政獨立不單是青年的問題,更是社會發展中重要的一環。要如何多管齊下,從增加收入、減輕負擔,以至培養理財習慣入手 ,助年輕人早日達致財政獨立,值得我們進一步深思。


 

[1] Whittington and Peters. (1996) Economic incentives for financial and residential independence. Demography, 33, 82-97.

[2] 青港青年協會 青年研究中心(2010),《香港青年對家庭經濟依賴(二)之住房問題研究》。

[3] Pew Research Center. (2017). It’s becoming more common for young adults to live at home – and for longer stretches. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/05/its-becoming-more-common-for-young-adults-to-live-at-home-and-for-longer-stretches/

[4] The Social Issues Research Centre. (2009). Young People and Financial Independence. Retrieved from: http://www.sirc.org/publik/financial_independence.shtml

[5] 政府統計處(2015),《2016年中期人口統計》,網址:http://www.bycensus2016.gov.hk/

[6] 新論壇、新青年論壇(2017),《香港各世代大學生收入比較研究報告》,2017年8月1日,網址:http://www.ncforum.org.hk/file/upload/file_907_SAK.pdf

[7] Xiao & Chatterjee. (2014). Factors Associated with Financial Independence of Young Adults. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=hdf_facpubs


 

如欲了解問卷調查的詳情,可到以下連結:

調查報告全文報告摘要Executive Summary交叉分析結果

Stockholm 2017!

Below is a note from our Research Assistant Cherry. It is a recap of our office’s trip to Stockholm in August, and Cherry’s personal reflections. Enjoy! (Cherry also wants you to follow her on Instagram: @cherryyyyyy_sangggg).

I went with our office on an offsite trip to Stockholm in late August. To do what? To exchange ideas on youth-related matters. Sweden is known for its equality and social welfare measures – children, youth, adults and elderly all enjoy equal rights in Sweden. Also, Sweden has a comprehensive youth policy, and they have the largest youth center in the world. I was very excited to visit and ask questions about this fascinating country.

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Day 1

The first stop we visited was Fryshuset, which is the largest youth center in the world. We had a casual lunch at their center talking about youth-related activities in the two cities, the things that the cities have in common and what we can learn from each other. My colleagues and I were very much impressed by their spirits. Johan, the CEO of Fryshuset, said, “we don’t look at the past of our participants. No matter which country they are from, whatever their socioeconomic background, and whether they are refugees, we only look at their future.” He also mentioned that as a youth organization, they don’t believe in specialization in youth work. Instead, they constantly consult youth and organically expand their services based on young people’s interests and needs. Therefore, when we were taking a tour at the center, we saw different kinds of facilities for youth who have different interests. In addition, they offer world-class trainers and instructors to guide young people in developing their interests with fully equipped facilities and production studios.

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One of the skateboarding venues at Fryshuset.

 

After lunch, we went to a local NGO called Protus. For friends who have been following Ming Wai on Facebook, you may have noticed that we posted some photos taken at Protus a few days ago. Protus is a very dynamic organization. Protus was started in 2009. It follows a Finnish model for experiential learning in philosophy and life values. They organize 12- days summer camps on a remote island every year and let young people gain life experiences during that time on the island. Their central theme is exploration but not dictation. They believe that young people should lead young people. Youth leaders will facilitate discussion with participants and a lot of times youth leaders are around the same age as participants.

 

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‘Fika’ – Refers to coffee and tea time in Swedish

Our team and the Protus Team

 

After a great discussion and ‘Fika’ time at Protus we moved downstairs to Epicenter, which is a co-working space for tech start-up industries and individuals. The coolest thing about the Epicenter is not just that it has a very innovative, but the members from the center were implanted with a grain – sized micro-chip in their hands and that could be used to open the doors, access to printers and even buying food from the vending machine.

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The Epicenter in Stockholm with their very innovative co-working spaces

 

The CEO of Epicenter told us that membership requires more than monetary subscription; members need to be active in contributing to the community and in its activities. Big firms like Twitter and Spotify like to be involved in Epicenter as they can be geographically close to smaller start-ups, which can offer ideas for business innovation. Also, for smaller firms, they have opportunities to get in touch with bigger firms and collaborate. One thing I noticed was that there was a room dedicated to failed start-up cases, encouraging young people to appreciate their failures and try to understand the reasons behind them.

The last stop of the day was the Nobel Foundation. I believe we all know or at least have heard about the Nobel Prize, but what people may not know is that the Nobel Foundation was established in Stockholm. People from the Nobel Foundation introduced their work. We also discussed how to encourage young people to develop their interests in science.

nobel

You might find our trip to be very boring, as it was filled with so many different meetings. But let me tell you – our trip has just started at this point!

Day 2

Stockholm had such amazing weather that we decided to have an outdoor BBQ, and make some jam for colleagues who unfortunately had to stay in Hong Kong.

 DSC08023

straw

 

Day 3

Sunday was a big day! There was a triathlon in Stockholm during the weekend. Under Ming Wai’s coercion (oops, no should be ‘encouragement’), all colleagues participated in a triathlon. But I enjoyed the experience.

20170907170347784 (1)

DSC08053

DSC08065

 

Day 4

The last day was a work day filled with meetings. We first visited the City Hall of Stockholm and had a meeting with Olle Burell, Stockholm’s Deputy Mayor, and exchanged notes on the differences between the education systems of the two cities. Surprisingly, we found out that ‘Monster Parents’ and ‘Tiger Moms’ do not just exist in Hong Kong. They are everywhere! Some parents would use their work e-mail address to email the school to apply pressure to teachers to make sure that their children would receive the best resources. Besides that, I believe there are a lot of things that we could learn from Sweden’s education system, for example, students were asked to choose as early as at age 15 their future career path – to either specialize in vocational education or go into the academic stream. This allows young people to follow the path that they enjoy the most.

IMG_1355 IMG_1372
The Mayor took us around in the City Hall and explained the history of the building

 

The last stop before we headed back to Hong Kong was a meeting with LUF (Liberal Youth of Sweden). This is the youth wing of Sweden’s Liberal Party and is chaired by young adults. LUF strongly advocates youth’s civic participation. Their idea of civic participation does not only include youth rights, but also youth’s general engagement and expression of opinions on wider social issues such as housing or education. Another thing – surprise surprise! The two members we met with were not familiar with the Swedish youth policy! This is because the principles and spirit of the youth policy permeates governmental measures and actions. (Click to review the key points of the Swedish youth policy).

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Lunch with Luf leaders

That was a very interesting discussion with the LUF and understood the political environment in Sweden as well as how we could help the young people here in Hong Kong to be more involved in the civic participation.

 

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Luf’s campaign poster – ‘the cat loves open border’

‘Talk to the invisible hand’

 

Lastly, I would like to close this post with a fun fact that we heard from the LUF that the Social Democratic Labor Party (SAP), the largest party in Sweden and its ruling party for the majority of the past 100 years, and its Swedish Social Democratic Youth Union (SSU), own a lottery company in Sweden and the proceeds of that company go to fund the party’s operation.

The offsite trip to Stockholm was a lot of fun, not just that we have learnt a lot about how Swedish people think and work but also some unique experiences that I had (Triathlon!).

Therefore, in conclusion, I think we need to have more of this kind of offsite trips.

青年政策 刻不容緩

2015年4月1日,我正式成為青年事務委員會主席。如今踏入兩週年,我亦有幸獲再度委任,正好藉此機會回顧過去,展望將來。 Continue reading

與青年及公眾接觸

我在兩年來的460多場活動當中,有不少機會去聆聽青年及相關持份者的聲音,了解他們所需所想;同時亦有透過社交平台,與公眾交流意見。以下是最深刻的三點得著。

香港的青年在成長時要面對很多不同的挑戰。在求學時期要爭取良好成積,進而尋找理想工作,以至早日置業、追求財政獨立。另一方面,社會要求青年擁有國際視野,在這個互聯網和科技不斷發展的時代,保持競爭力。同時,他們亦要應付現代忙碌生活對身心健康帶來的壓力,與家人和朋友維持健康、良好的關係。由青年過渡到成年,年輕人要面對的難題有很多,並非單單一兩句說話就能概括。

現時有關青年的措施,較偏重於出身較差的低下階層,又或是表現良好的精英,有時或會忽略了佔大多數但較普通的「夾心階層」。一直以來,我都以接觸和認識這些「夾心階層」的青年為主要目標,而未來的青年發展工作也應如是。任何有關的政策及措施,都應顧及青年的多樣性,讓他們每一個都能發揮潛能。這亦是青年事務委員會一貫的理念——推廣多元卓越文化。

近年,很多青年都對社會及政治事務表達出強烈的意見,同時亦希望能在政策制定過程中有更大的影響力。我們應給予他們更多機會表達訴求,他們的聲音亦理應受到正視。尤其在青年發展的未來路向上,他們的意見更是不可或缺的。

香港青年發展的工作狀況

在政府與其他持份者的努力下,近年有關青年的措施無論在質素或數量上都有相當的進步。民政事務局最近就出版了《本屆政府的青年發展工作 2012-2017:回顧和前瞻》,歸納過去一屆特區政府在有關方面的工作,包括培養多元發展和環球視野,鼓勵青年參與義工服務等等。小冊子没有提及非政府組織在社區層面的措施,但值得一提的是這些社區活動當中也有不少充滿創意而又具影響力的想法。就青年發展的整體未來路向而言,我一直希望能增加各界持份者之間的交流,共同進行檢討,持續完善相關的做法。期望在大家的共同努力下,青年最終能受惠。

除了改善個別措施之外,我們也要了解,影響青年的成長與發展的政策範疇其實環環相扣。青年若缺乏生涯規劃上的指引,或會因未能找到合適工作,而令財政狀況受影響;飽受網絡欺凌的青年,或會將不滿的情緒發洩到其他地方,繼而傷害自己甚至社會。

香港雖有不少支援青年的措施,但這些措施大多是政府不同部門和政府以外的持份者各自為政的產物。

香港需要一套完整的青年政策,主導未來的工作,為青年發展訂下長遠目標,促進持份者之間的合作。

香港需要青年政策

過去一年,我致力於回顧香港青年政策的歷史,同時亦有研究海外的相關經驗。香港在八十年代曾經嘗試推行青年政策,可惜最後無疾而終。當時,政府成立中央青年事務委員會,檢討香港對青年政策的需要。在研究結果及民意的支持下,中央青年事務委員會其後建議港英政府設立青年政策,並成立專責委員會去起草該政策。時任港督最後否決設立青年政策的建議,但就同意成立委員會——亦即今天的青年事務委員會。

嚴格而言,青年政策不算創新;不少國家早已設立了類似的政策。有海外機構(Youth Policy Lab)就指出,截至2014年,全球超過六成的國家都設有青年政策。從英國、澳洲、新西蘭、加拿大魁北克省,以至澳門的例子可見,青年政策不是一張羅列所有相關措施的清單,而是一個全面的框架,高層次地勾劃出社會對青年的願景,以及政府在青年工作方面投放資源的重點。

當然,世上沒有能解決所有問題的靈丹妙藥。雖然青年政策可以為青年發展工作釐清方向,確保青年相關的措施有一套連貫的論述,但它不可能滿足所有青年的需要。作為一份勾劃出未來工作的大方針的文件,青年政策的成效往往要在多年後才能體現,其對個別青年的影響亦未必是顯然易見的。或許這就是青年政策一直受到忽略的原因。

慶幸經過一年的努力,主要是透過網頁(http://youthpolicy.hk)和 Facebook(@hello.mingwailau.hk)的宣傳,不少人都表示希望香港設立一套完整的青年政策。青年渴望見到政府對青年發展作出更有力的承擔;相關政府官員和持份者亦希望社會能對青年發展有著一致的願景,以主導他們的工作。

最新發展

2016-17年是香港青年發展非常最重要的一年。

在2017年的施政報告中,政府邀請青年事務委員會就青年發展政策的未來路向提出建議,並加強與政府各部門在青年工作上的協調。

林鄭月娥女士在她參選行政長官的選舉政綱中,邀請了青年事務委員會盡快完成青年政策初稿,作為成立「青年發展委員會」的基礎。

現在正是社會共同思考及討論青年政策的最好時機。在接下來的9-12個月,青年事務委員會將就青年政策展開公眾諮詢。

預期由政務司司長主持的「青年發展委員會」,將會督導相關政策局及部門推動青年發展工作。屆時青年事務委員會亦會納入上述新設的高層次委員會中。

在接下來的一年,青年事務委員會將成立專責小組,以焦點小組的形式,向青年、青年團體、青年大使、老師、校長、家長、僱主、社工,以及其他有關機構及行業的代表收集意見。除了談及青年政策外,亦會藉此了解青年的需要,檢討現有支援青年的個別措施。

與青年有關的個別措施

歡迎大家對青年相關的個別措施提出意見,不論是對現行措施的批評或建議推行的新政策,我都想知道。以下為我對教育、就業、公民參與,以及身心健康四個範疇的見解。更詳細的版本可參閱我在選舉前寫給各行政長官候選人的文章(中文只有簡短版)。

  • 教育應著重為青年提供更多多元發展的機會,讓學生發掘自身的興趣及潛能,並以此為根據發揮所長。教育亦應裝備青年,讓他們具備當今社會必備的技能,例如批判思考、解難能力、溝通和與人合作的技巧、數碼數養,以及國際視野。我們需要全面檢討香港的教育制度是否能培養以上技能,由教學大綱、課程內容,以至考核方法都要考慮。另一方面,亦應客觀評估生涯規劃以及職業教育的成效,以確保資源用得其所。
  • 要改善青年的就業前景及向上流動性,我們必須發展多元經濟,為年輕人帶來傳統產業以外的優質就業機會。與此同時,裝備青年也是不可或缺的一環。政府可充當業界和專上教育界之間的橋樑,鼓勵商校交流。具體的方法包括增加學生實習的機會、加強學生的職業訓練等。而對於有志於創新及科技、創意文化和體育方面發展的青年,以及年輕創業家,我們要給予額外的支持,除了硬體上的供應,還要為他們建立更多融資平台和人際網絡。
  • 為加強青年的公民參與,特區政府應在特首帶領之下更主動接觸青年,在政策制訂過程中吸納青年的聲音。溝通渠道亦可更多元,包括非官方活動、面對面訪談和社交媒體上的交流等等。另一方面,亦應鼓勵不同背景的青年都多參與義工服務,以培養公民責任和對香港社會的歸屬感。
  • 身心健康方面,政府可參考海外的做法,以抗逆力作為青年政策的其中一個核心價值。我希望青年能堅強地成長,能在逆境中自強。青年政策亦應以此為願景,透過家庭、學校、社區的共同努力達成目標。

候任特首林鄭月娥女士在她的政網中都有談論以上各個與青年有關的範疇,而我特別高興見到她提出以下措施。

教育

  • 增加每年50億元的教育經常開支;
  • 透過每年的「行政長官優質教育高峰會」,親自聆聽教育界各持份者的意見;
  • 邀請教育專家,由理念及執行上全面檢視教育制度;
  • 鼓勵教師專注教授中文作為第二語言、有特殊學習需要(SEN)學生;
  • 加強推動STEM的教育,研究增加對學校相關資助的金額;
  • 把電腦程式編寫(coding)引進學校課程;
  • 探討大專學生學費貸款靈活還款安排的可行性。

就業

  • 吸引國際知名、公認為行內翹楚的機構落戶香港,為香港培訓創科人才;
  • 為創意產業的發展打破局限,讓在表演藝術、電腦設計、動漫、電影等界別方面發展的青年有空間發揮所長,包括研究設立更多表演場地;
  • 推動體育在學校普及化,加強香港體育學院研究深化培養精英運動員的策略及改善相關配套,並在現有基礎上增撥資源持續推行各項支援退役運動員發展的計劃;
  • 與擁有成功活化工廈的業主商討,以優惠租金出租部分樓層為共用工作空間。

公民參與

  • 成立「青年發展委員會」,考慮起用一定比例的青年委員,探討增設院校代表的可行性;
  • 招聘20至30名有志於政策及項目研究、來自不同專業的青年,加入由中央政策組改組成的政策及項目統籌單位;
  • 要求各政策局委任更多來自不同界別的青年成為法定組織及委員會委員;
  • 選定某些諮詢委員會試行「委員自薦計劃」,讓不同界別背景的青年都有機會參與公共政策討論。

身心健康

  • 關注學童的身心靈需要,以校本推動學校進行生命教育,配合家校合作,提升學童的情緒健康與抗逆力。

未來路向

預計青年事務委員會的專責小組將於2018年初向委員會報告諮詢結果,以作進一步商議,然後再由委員會向政府呈交關於青年政策的最終建議。歡迎各位就香港的青年政策提出寶貴意見,不論是關於其願景、策略方向或實行方法,我都有興趣知道;亦歡迎大家就如何加強政府各部門和其他界別持份者在青年工作上的協調,作出提議。

我已準備迎接未來的挑戰,帶領青年事務委員會進行來年的諮詢,以完成青年政策的初稿,作為成立「青年發展委員會」的基礎。這將是香港青年發展的里程碑。

我和青年事務委員會將聆聽公眾、青年、相關政府官員和持份者的聲音,確保政策能滿足青年的需要之餘,亦切合香港的社會經濟狀況。我們將一起塑造青年發展的未來方向,讓年青一代有機會各展所長,創造美好人生。

Now is the Time for a Youth Policy

1st April 2017 marks the two-year anniversary and the renewal of my appointment as Chairman of the Commission on Youth (“CoY“). I would like to take this occasion to review my past term’s work, and outline my priorities for the next term. Continue reading

Observations from Youth and Public Engagements

During my term, I met with young people and stakeholders in youth development at 460 occasions to have a better understanding of their situations, thoughts and needs. I also placed much emphasis on engaging and soliciting views from the public through social media. Three observations can be made from these exchanges.

First, Hong Kong’s youth face many challenges in their transition to adulthood – striving to excel in school, find a good job, attain financial independence and, for many, buy a property; maintain a global outlook and competitiveness in this age of interconnectivity and ever-evolving technology; cope with the stresses that modern life brings to one’s physical and mental wellbeing; establish healthy and loving relationships within one’s family and community, so on and so forth.

Second, existing youth-related measures tend to mostly benefit at-risk youth and the elites. One of my priorities have been to reach out to young people who are neither at risk nor at the top – what I call the “middle 80%”. Successful youth development work should take into account the plurality of young people and support each and everyone of them in fully realising their potential. Such is the vision of the CoY – to foster a culture of multi-faceted excellence.

Third, many young people have expressed an interest in political and social issues and they would like to have greater influence on policymaking. They should be given more opportunities to voice their opinions and their views should be properly recognised. They should especially have a say in the future direction of youth development work.

Review of Hong Kong’s Youth Development Work

Through the efforts of the Hong Kong SAR Government (“HKSARG”) acting together with stakeholders in other sectors, we have witnessed a rise in the quantity and quality of youth-related measures (which is not the same as a youth policy, and I will turn to this below). The Youth Development Work of the Current-term Government 2012-2017: Review and Outlook, a booklet recently released by the Home Affairs Bureau (“HAB”), summarises existing measures to promote multi-faceted development, global perspectives, volunteerism, youth engagement and community participation. The booklet did not include initiatives at a community level, many of which I have observed to be innovative and impactful. In reviewing youth-related measures (whether government-led or not), I have been mindful to identify best practices and encourage more cross-sectoral exchanges so that, together, we can scale measures that truly benefit our youth.

While reviewing individual measures is important, what we often forget is that these measures affect a young person’s growth and development in a way such that they cannot be viewed in isolation. A young person who does not have sufficient guidance on life planning may find himself in a job that does not suit him and feel trapped or financially vulnerable; or a teenager who has experienced cyberbullying might express his frustration in ways that harm himself or the society.

Hong Kong has many youth-related measures, but they are often the efforts of bureaux and non-governmental actors working in silos.

What Hong Kong lacks is a youth policy to facilitate coordination between stakeholders and lay down a central guiding principle for youth development in the long term.

Hong Kong Needs a Youth Policy

I dedicated much of my time last year to reviewing Hong Kong’s historical development of a youth policy and overseas experience. The 1980s saw an attempt to introduce a youth policy to consolidate existing efforts in youth development, but it did not come to fruition. Back then, a Central Committee on Youth (“CCY”) was set up to research and consult the public on the need for a youth policy. Based on its findings and public opinion, the CCY recommended the colonial government to formulate a youth policy and establish a commission on youth for the task. The CCY’s recommendation for a youth policy was rejected, though its recommendation for a commission on youth was accepted, hence the CoY today.

A youth policy is not a novel idea; many countries have one. Independent think tank Youth Policy Labs’ survey in 2014 found that 62 per cent of nations worldwide have a national youth policy. Examples include the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, certain states in Canada like Québec, and our neighbour Macao SAR of China. These examples all demonstrate that a youth policy is not merely a laundry list of youth-related measures; it is a high-level document that outlines a city’s vision for its young people and the government’s long-term investment priorities for achieving that vision.

While a youth policy fosters strategic direction for youth development work across the board and ensures that youth-related measures are consistent, it is not a silver bullet that will help our young people overcome all of their challenges in life. As a set of guidelines for long-term action, the effects of a youth policy may not be visible until many years later, and its impact on individual lives may not be apparent. This may be why our society has not, until recently, started to discuss whether Hong Kong needs a youth policy.

I am glad to see that after a year of public education and engagement (mostly through the website: http://youthpolicy.hk and Facebook: @hello.mingwailau.hk), many members of the public have expressed a wish to see a more comprehensive set of youth policy in Hong Kong. Young people want to see more commitment on the part of the HKSARG to youth development. HKSARG officials and other stakeholders indicated that they would benefit from a central vision to underpin their actions.

Recent Developments

2016-2017 has been an exciting time for Hong Kong’s youth development.

In the Policy Address 2017, the CoY was invited to put forward proposals on the future direction of a youth development policy and strengthen coordination with various government departments in youth development.

In her manifesto for the Chief Election election, Ms. Carrie Lam asked the CoY to promptly complete the first draft of a youth policy, as the basis for establishing a Youth Development Commission (“YDC”).

Now is therefore the time for our society to think and talk about Hong Kong’s youth policy. In the coming 9-12 months, the CoY will conduct extensive public consultations on this.

Chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration and comprising youth members, the YDC would steer relevant policy bureaux and departments to take forward youth development initiatives. The CoY would be incorporated into the YDC.

In the coming year, the CoY will form a dedicated focus group to coordinate a series of discussions with young people, youth groups, youth ambassadors, teachers, school principals, parents, employers, social workers, NGOs, and representatives from other groups and sectors. Apart from engaging the public on Hong Kong’s youth policy, the CoY will solicit views on individual youth-related measures.

Youth-related Measures

I welcome suggestions on existing measures as well as new ones to be introduced. Below are my proposals relating to education, jobs, civic participation, and health and wellbeing, which were more fully explained in my note to all Chief Executive candidates.

  • Our education system should create enough opportunities for students to explore different subjects and interests starting from an early age, and have flexible pathways for them to develop their strengths according to their passions. It should hone skills that are essential in modern society, including critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration skills, and cultivate digital fluency and a global outlook. With a view to attaining these objectives, there needs to be a complete review of Hong Kong’s education system, from its syllabus and curriculum to assessment methods, led by experts. We also need to objectively assess our career and life planning education and vocational training to ensure that resources spent in these areas are fully utilised.
  • To improve job prospects and upward mobility, Hong Kong needs to have a broader, more diversified economic base such that young people can enjoy an abundance of quality job opportunities. To enhance young people’s job-readiness, particularly from an employer’s perspective, the HKSARG should create more communication channels between employers and tertiary institutions, and encourage employers to let students gain work experience in their school years through internship programmes. Young people seeking careers in the fields of innovation and technology (I.T.), arts and culture, sports and entrepreneurship need extra support, from infrastructure to funding to capacity- and network-building.
  • To enhance youth civic participation, the Chief Executive should lead HKSARG officials in being more proactive and initiating exchanges with youth (formal and informal; in person and on social media), and actively listen to and acknowledge their views. Encouraging volunteerism is another way to instill citizenship values. These opportunities should be readily available to young people from all backgrounds.
  • In the area of health and wellbeing, we should consider following overseas practice and include resilience as one of the pillars of Hong Kong’s youth policy. We should instill in our young the “mental toughness” to deal with challenges and setbacks in life, and our youth policy should lay down a strategic framework as to how this can be done in all contexts – at home, in school, and in the community.

Ms. Carrie Lam addressed each of the above areas in her manifesto and I was particularly glad to see the following proposals.

Education

  • Increase the HKSARG’s recurrent expenditure on education by HK$5 billion a year;
  • Engage stakeholders through an annual Chief Executive Summit on Quality Education;
  • Commission experts to conduct a comprehensive review of the education system, from its philosophy to individual measures;
  • Encourage teachers to acquire specialised skills in teaching Chinese as a second language and students with special education needs (“SEN”);
  • Promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (“STEM”) education;
  • Introduce coding into school curricula; and
  • Explore the feasibility of flexible repayment arrangements for newly graduated students of tertiary institutions.

Work

  • Attract leading I.T. companies to set up in Hong Kong and provide training to local startups;
  • Create a more favourable environment for young people to develop their talents in creative industries such as performing arts, computer design, comics and animation and film-making, and consider the feasibility of building more performance venues;
  • Promote physical education in schools; invite the Hong Kong Sports Institute to study the strategy for enhancing the training of elite athletes; provide extra resources for training local athletes and to support retired athletes; and
  • Encourage industrial building owners to rent out parts of their buildings as co-working space at concessionary rental.

Civic participation

  • Establish a YDC that comprises at least a certain proportion of young members and members from tertiary institutions;
  • Recruit 20-30 young people into the revamped Central Policy Unit to conduct policy and project research;
  • Appoint a certain proportion of young members into statutory bodies and advisory committees; and
  • Introduce a self-recommendation mechanism for select consultation committees so young people can have more opportunities to participate in public policy discussions.

Health and wellbeing

  • Care for the physical, mental and spiritual needs of students through school-based Life Education and cooperation with families, with a view to strengthening the resilience and enhancing the emotional wellbeing of students.

The Way Forward

The CoY’s dedicated focus group is expected to report its findings to the CoY by early 2018 for further deliberation, after which the CoY will submit final recommendations to the HKSARG regarding Hong Kong’s youth policy. Any comments on Hong Kong’s youth policy (whether as to its vision, strategy or approach), and any suggestions on ways to strengthen coordination among government departments and stakeholders in youth development, are welcome.

I look forward to carrying out the CoY’s mandate of formulating a youth policy, as the basis for establishing a Youth Development Commission. This is a milestone in Hong Kong’s youth development.

Both myself and the CoY will be in consultation with young people, government officials, stakeholders, and members of the public, with a view to crafting a youth policy that is most suited to our youth’s needs and Hong Kong’s economic and social circumstances. Together, we will shape the future direction of Hong Kong’s youth development and build a next generation that can realise their full potential to create fulfilling lives for themselves.

致各位特首候選人:你對香港的青年有甚麼願景?

不經不覺,我擔任青年事務委員會主席已差不多兩年。由學校到深夜的街頭、由資優生到清貧學生,我一直都珍惜每個與青年接觸的機會,希望能多了解他們一點。成年人或多或少都對青年抱持某程度上的偏見,很少真正聆聽他們的聲音。但其實香港的青年充滿活力,有各種不同的想法,只要加以栽培,將能成為社會發展的動力。

Continue reading

在今年的施政報告中,政府展現了成立青年發展政策的決心。青年的需要橫跨多個政策範疇,包括教育、就業、房屋、公民參與、身份認同、身心健康等,因此青年工作往往牽涉多個持份者。青年發展政策將可提供一個統一長遠的願景,讓社會能朝著目標共同努力。

就我而言,我希望香港青年能開心、健康、堅強地成長。青年工作非一朝一夕,亦非即時可以見到成效,但根據我的觀察及親身接觸,最需要繼續努力的,始終還是與青年最貼身的兩個範疇──教育與就業。

教育

培養學習興趣,實踐終身學習

很多學生、家長,甚至教師,都只將學習視為將來獲得高薪厚職的入場券,而非以追求學問或滿足好奇心為主要目的。這導致學生普遍對課堂興致缺缺,亦會在無形間加重他們的壓力。不少學生告訴我,考試及功課的重壓,令他們沒有時間休息及放鬆,更遑論培養課餘愛好。學習本應是快樂的,只有學生對學習感興趣,才能培養出他們的自學能力。我們應給予學生足夠的空間自主學習,探索興趣,發揮所長。這樣將能徹底釋放他們的潛力,甚至為社會發展帶來更多意想不到的可能性。

香港的教育制度,以考試成績作為評估學生的主要標準,有時或會忽略了對好奇心、創意、表達能力、解難能力,以至其他生活技能的培育。對於如何改善教育制度,社會上眾說紛紜,而我則認為,教育應以培養學生對學習的興趣為前題,從而實踐終身學習的理念。我們亦要檢討生涯規劃教育的成效,讓學生基於興趣和能力,作出最適合自己的升學和就業選擇。

就業

優化職業訓練和自資課程,充當商、校之間的橋樑

近年,青年接受專上教育的比例持續上升,而這些新增學額主要來自自資副學位課程。但有研究就表示,副學位畢業生在勞動市場上供過於求,而他們的就業收入,始終比學士學位畢業生為低,反映不少僱主對副學位畢業生的質素和課程資歷有所質疑。另一方面,他們要升讀學士學位也不容易,或因而跌入「升學就業兩不成」的困局。更糟糕的是,有學生因此背負高昂的學債,以致未投身社會,就先面對沉重的財政壓力。

不過,職業和收入的向上流動性減弱,不單影響副學位畢業生,更波及整體青年人口。雖然青年的教育水平有所上升,但他們整體的就業收入卻没有明顯改善,而起薪點及薪金上升的速度甚至呈下降的趨勢。大學畢業生的就業前景,明顯比上一代遜色。有研究就指出,從事低技術職位的大學生越來越多。不少青年投身職位較多的批發、零售、進出口貿易、飲食及酒店業,然而這些行業的高薪職位卻相對較少,年輕僱員或因此感到難以向上流動。

樓價日益高企,但青年的收入卻没有改善,也難怪他們會感到前路茫茫。歸根究底,除了因產業不夠多元外,亦反映出人力資源失衡的情況。政府除了可繼續促進產業多元外,亦宜擔當促進者的角色,加強官、商、校合作,提供平台讓有關界別了解學額供求的情況,以及討論何提升職業訓練和自資學位課程的質素。

對於有志於體育、文化、藝術等方面發展的青年以及年輕創業家,我們也應給予足夠的支持與鼓勵。這些青年面對的,除了是家長、老師及社會方面的壓力外,亦有不少實質的難題,例如運動員訓練場地不足,退役後前景不明朗;藝術家需要更多的工作空間和器材支援;創業家籌集資本面對重重障礙,難以將創意付諸實行。這些青年的未來,充滿著無限的可能,政府應在政策層面上提供幫助,讓他們能放心追夢。

年輕人處於成長、轉變的階段,必然會有各式各樣的訴求。以上提到的,只是一些我認為下一屆特首應該優先處理的事項,而成立青年發展政策,正好讓我們就社會對青年發展的願景進行諮詢。最重要的,是我們大家都要放下成見,真正聆聽青年的聲音,了解他們所想。我希望香港的青年,能開心、健康、堅強地成長。各特首候選人,你對他們又有甚麼願景呢?

網上安全圓桌會議 Online Safety Roundtable

昨晚有幸和Facebook的網絡安全專家 Mia Garlick 以及本港的學者和非牟利機構會面,包括香港青年協會香港小童群益會,一起探討如何為年輕人建立一個更安全的網上世界。

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香港有超過九成人使用Facebook, 其中不少是年輕人。Facebook 在亞太區推出不少安全工具,確保青年可以放心使用Facebook,其工作十分有意義。

除了Facebook之外,其他持份者的支持也相當重要。很多網上欺凌的案件以及其他網上風險,是跨平台的。就個人行為來說,線上和線下的分別亦漸趨模糊。我們要做好校內教育和社工外展工作,加強媒體宣傳和相關的法律規管。

「網上安全」的條件有很多——上網成癮、網上滋擾、仇恨言論、假新聞,甚至個人私隱,這些都與網上安全有關。當然,這些問題有不同的解決方法,但席間大家得出一些初步的結論。

我們要改善年輕人的數碼能力和網路素養。青年用家除了要對網上存在的風險提高警惕以外,亦要懂得辨認網上資訊的真假,有效、安全地使用不同的社交媒體平台。另一方面,前線社工提到有些網上用家彷彿認為他們不用為線上行為負責,電腦顯示屏減少了人與人之間的尊重,令人低估自身行為對別人的影響。我們必須在這方面加強教育。以網絡欺凌為例,旁觀者其實有能力加劇或制止欺凌行為。

要改善網絡安全,預防和教育最重要。然而,何謂網上有害行為,不論是海外或本港的社區都未有共識,這令宣傳工作難上加難。網上平台和用語日新月異,要真正了解年輕人的線上行為和背後原因,對症下藥,亦不容易。因此,跨界別交流,有助社會就基本定義和最佳做法達成共識,更有效地規劃將來的工作。希望這一次會面,為未來更多的交流奠定基礎。

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Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting with Facebook’s Asia Pacific online safety expert Mia Garlick and Hong Kong academics and NGOs, including The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) and The Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong (BGCA) to discuss how to make the Internet a safer and better place for youth.

Facebook shared what it is doing to enhance safety for users. More than 90% of the Hong Kong population uses Facebook so it is encouraging to see so many meaningful initiatives on their part.

But we also need other stakeholders’ support. Many cyberbullying cases and other risks on the Internet occur across platforms. The line between offline and online behaviour is increasingly blurred. So we need to strengthen work on all fronts, from school education to social workers’ outreach to media campaigns to legal intervention.

Online safety is also a broad term and it requires us to address issues like Internet addiction, cyberstalking, hate speech, fake news and privacy concerns. While solutions to these problems are varied, some common themes emerged.

We need to improve our youth’s digital and media literacy and Internet etiquette. Young users should be more alert as to Internet risks, more skilful in finding and using information online as well as in utilising various social media platforms. At the same time, we should not neglect the other side of the equation. Oftentimes a computer screen reduces people’s empathy and respect for others, and accountability for their own actions. It makes people less mindful of the impact of their actions and less willing to help others. We talked about inactive bystanders on social media which makes cyberbullying all the more harmful.

Prevention and education must be the way forward. Yet a major hurdle in awareness raising is the difficulty in defining Internet unsafe or unacceptable behaviour. Another complication is understanding and responding to online behaviour in an appropriate and timely manner, given that new platforms and Internet language emerge everyday. This is why stakeholders’ exchange is critical for the local community to move closer to reaching a consensus on fundamental definitions and best practices, as well as on next steps ahead. Hopefully, this will be the first of many similar occasions.

An Open Note to all Chief Executive Candidates

In the Policy Address 2017, the Commission on Youth (CoY) was asked to put forward proposals for a youth development policy. As the Chairman of the CoY, I ask for the next Chief Executive’s support in formulating a vision for our youth and reaching a unified narrative for all youth-related stakeholders and actions.

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During my term as the Chairman of the Commission on Youth (CoY), I have attached great importance to communicating with our young people. Apart from official activities of the CoY, I have got in touch with young people and listened to their views through less formal channels, including small-group meetings and social media. Many of the youth that I have met are students from all ages and backgrounds, but I have also spoken to young politicians and activists, athletes, entrepreneurs, artists and ethnic minorities. To fully understand our youth and the challenges they face, we must understand the ways in which young people interact with the community at large. This is why I have made sure to engage other stakeholders as well, including parents, teachers and principals, social workers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and private sector actors that are active or interested in youth development.

2017 is an exciting year for Hong Kong’s youth development, but we have a lot of work to do. The CoY was asked to put forward proposals on the future direction of a youth development policy.

Youth development means different things to different people. To many, it means better education and job opportunities. To others, creating space for civic participation is more important. Every young person is as unique as the other. That is why consultation is key for Hong Kong to formulate a youth development policy that meets the diverse needs of our next generation.

That said, I will use this note to outline what I consider to be the HKSAR Government’s (HKSARG’s) and the next Chief Executive’s priorities in youth development, based on my work and engagements in the past two years. Hong Kong’s youth development policy should address the following areas: (1) education; (2) employment and vocational training; (3) the housing and economic situation; (4) civic participation; (5) national identity; (6) technology and social media; and (7) resilience and mental wellbeing.

Education

Inspire lifelong learning

I have heard many criticisms of Hong Kong’s education system. I have no intention to belittle these concerns, though as I have said before, blaming all education woes on the HKSARG or its officials is simplistic and unfair. It might be more constructive to consider two questions: (i) What is the aim of education? (ii) Is our education system designed and implemented in such a way to achieve this objective?

83% of local secondary students study for the purpose of landing a good job, according to a 2016 survey by Education 2.1. My exchanges with parents and teachers yield the same finding. Yet when students are not studying based on their interests or to fulfill their intellectual curiosity, this has direct implications on their subject choice and passion for learning. Year in and year out, our education system produces batches and batches of students competing for subjects that are more likely to give them a “good job” in industries such as medicine, law, business and finance; nonetheless, many of these students told me that they went through years of training to realise that their real interest lies elsewhere. Is this not a failure on the part of our education system? The introduction of Career and Life Planning (CLP) is a step in the right direction, though it is too early to determine its effectiveness.

Our education system is flawed in many ways. The workload of our students is too heavy. 91% feel pressure in preparing for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), and 37% describe the pressure as “severe”. 35% of our students do not have enough time to rest and relax, and 37% do not have time to explore and develop their interests. Our assessment methods are mostly exam-based. The upshot is an educational experience that does not encourage curiosity, creativity, reflection, expression or collaboration, all of which are skills essential in modern society.

We want our youth to have a personalised education that enhances their strengths and creates opportunities for them to explore and pursue their interests starting from an early age. We need a CLP education that is effective in enabling students to make informed choices about their future and facilitating their transition from studying to working. Currently, best practices for conveying CLP education are not known, and this should be changed through better stakeholder communication.

Effective Career and Life Planning methods should be scaled, and parents’ role in students’ life choices need to be better understood.

Many have made suggestions on how to improve our education system, and I do not need to repeat them here. These suggestions bring out the need for a complete review of Hong Kong’s education system, from its syllabus and curriculum to its assessment methods. Language is a key tool for learning, and Hong Kong has always prided itself on its students’ bilingualism. We must ensure that our students do not lose this competitive edge and continually improve our language pedagogy, including Chinese teaching for non-Chinese speaking children.

Visit to Rosary Hill School to learn about Chinese teaching for non-Chinese speaking students.

Visit to Rosary Hill School to learn about Chinese teaching for non-Chinese speaking students.

We want our students to see learning as an enjoyment and not a chore, so that they will be inspired to embark on lifelong learning.

Learning can take place in many contexts. I observed many informal activities outside the classroom and was impressed by their effectiveness in building students’ soft skills, including problem solving, relationships and wellbeing, and financial literacy. International exchange tours, such as the ones supported by the CoY, enable students to gain exposure. There is much to be said for the HKSARG to support life skills programmes and expand the international exchange network for our students.

Learning outside the classroom - at the Jockey Club Ah Kung Wan Outward Bound Training Centre.

Learning outside the classroom – at the Jockey Club Ah Kung Wan Outward Bound Training Centre.

Employment and Vocational Training

Make young people job-ready

Young people find that, compared to their parents, they have fewer job opportunities and witness smaller pay rises as they climb up the career ladder. Comparing relevant figures in 1991 and 2011, more working youth are in lower-paid associate professional jobs, as opposed to higher-paid managerial and professional jobs. More young people have taken up low-waged, low-skilled service and sales jobs over the past 20 years.

The youth wage growth rate dropped from 45.6% in 1993-1998 to 25.6% in 2008-2013. The starting salary of a fresh university graduate was $13,158 in 1993, but fell to $10,860 in 2013, somewhat eroding the common belief that a university degree guarantees financial return. The problem is exacerbated for youth without a university degree. In 2015, the median monthly earnings of a non-degree holder was HK$16,450, significantly lower than the HK$27,500 of a degree holder.

Our youth enjoy less occupational and earnings mobility than the older generation. The unfortunate truth is there is a mismatch of demand and supply in our labour market. The demand for high-skilled professionals has not caught up with the increased (and still increasing) supply of university and sub-degree graduates. Hong Kong has an excess of sub-degree holders, and this excess was projected to increase even more in 2022.

What Hong Kong needs is a broader, more diversified economic base beyond the real estate, finance and commercial sectors. While we can debate about the appropriate degree of economic intervention to diversify jobs, the HKSARG is at least in a good position to foster communications between employers and tertiary institutions to bridge the demand/supply gap. With increased communications, schools can have more clarity on needs in the labour market, and what employers look for in making hiring decisions. Schools can then be more responsive in providing training to students.

The HKSARG should enhance young people’s job-readiness through creating better opportunities for them to gain work experience in their school years. Hong Kong has many mentorship and internship programmes, yet their quality and impact are rarely evaluated.

We need to move beyond quantitative targets, and ensure that internship programmes deliver their intended outcome.

Youth who want to pursue careers in fields like the arts, sports and entrepreneurship face extra hurdles. Parental pressure and societal norms, as well as financial burden, are but a few obstacles they have to overcome in following an “unconventional” path. These young people in particular need support from the HKSARG, from infrastructure to funding to capacity- and network-building.

Taken at Blueprint, a co-working space for tech start-ups.

Taken at Blueprint, a co-working space for tech start-ups.

Housing and Economic Situation

Support youth to be self-sufficient

Housing comes up as a frequent topic of discussion in my exchanges with youth. Many tell me that buying a property in Hong Kong is almost impossible these days. Yet, for every young person who is distressed by the unaffordability of flats in Hong Kong, there is another individual who tells me that he/she does not put housing at the top of his/her concerns.

Housing was among the topics explored in Hong Kong Ideas Centre's report on the concerns of young people.

Housing was among the topics explored in Hong Kong Ideas Centre’s report on the concerns of young people.

To have a clearer understanding of the issue, my team compiled a Hong Kong Youth Development Index (HKYDI) to provide a quantifiable, objective account of Hong Kong youth’s wellbeing in the past 10 years. HKYDI measures the living situation of young people in Hong Kong across six domains, one of them being economic situation. Based on the results, it is true that residential property in Hong Kong has become less affordable in the past decade. The ratio of youth employee earnings to private residential property prices has risen significantly by 112% from 2005 to 2014. However, other aspects of local young people’s economic situation have improved. Youth poverty rate has dropped by 13.1% from 2009 to 2014, and youth employee earnings have increased by 9.4% from 2005 to 2014.

The primary issue lies in our surging property prices. This should not come as a surprise; indeed there has been ample supporting data and public discussions on this subject. The average price for a small residential unit skyrocketed by 188% from 2006 to 2013, while the median monthly household income increased by a mere 30%. The takeaway is that housing is a policy imperative not only in relation to youth, but everyone in Hong Kong, and addressing it requires long-term, comprehensive strategies and coordination from the HKSARG and beyond.

Increasing housing supply is key, and the HKSARG can also take specific measures to support youth in home ownership. For example, the HKSARG can review the eligibility criteria of public housing for youth based on financial needs, and build more youth hostels (beyond the five locations already identified under the Home Affairs Bureau’s Youth Hostel Scheme). Equally important is for all stakeholders (HKSARG, young people and society at large) to put the issue into perspective. Globally, the transition from youth to adulthood has become more complex and drawn out, and many young people delay moving out of the parental home or return after living independently in college. Such is the case in the UK, the US, Australia, and European countries like Sweden and Denmark. This phenomenon suggests that home ownership is not a prerequisite to financial independence.

In many countries, home ownership is not a prerequisite to financial independence.

Many young people around the world are experiencing delayed home ownership (or financial independence, or both), and our youth need not be discouraged or frustrated simply because of this situation. What the HKSARG can do is to understand the factors affecting youth’s financial independence, and measures that other countries have taken to address this issue.

The HKSARG should introduce policies to support our young people in becoming financially self-sufficient.

Civic Participation

Engage our youth fully and effectively

I have spoken to many young people who feel that their voices are not heard or that they do not have enough influence over policymaking. These young people are passionate about certain causes or social affairs, and would like to have their views acknowledged by the HKSARG, if not taken into account. On the other end of the spectrum, there is a significant “silent majority” among local youth. The turnout rate of young voters aged 18-25 in Legislative Council elections has fallen by 15.9% from 2004 to 2012. Less than half of our young people voted in the most recent Legislative and District Council elections, with the relevant voting rate being 44.5% and 30.2% respectively. Both represent a segment of our next generation, and both phenomena reflect that our youth are not fully engaged on civic matters. While formal platforms and channels such as the Annual Youth Summit and Youth Exchange Sessions exist, they have not been successful in allowing our youth to feel adequately represented.

Yau Tsim Mong Youths' Community Concern Group is a group of passionate young people who meet up regularly to discuss policies affecting youth.

Yau Tsim Mong Youths’ Community Concern Group is a group of passionate young people who meet up regularly to discuss policies affecting youth.

We must not forget that informal exchanges go hand in hand with formal political participation. In my experience, small and casual group chats (instead of large-scale, official events) are often more effective in soliciting candid comments and promoting constructive discussions with young people. Social media is another powerful tool for reaching out to the “silent majority”, and the HKSARG should leverage its full potential in enhancing civic participation.
The HKSARG can place more emphasis on informal exchanges and social media interactions, as well as on encouraging volunteerism.

We must also not forget that community involvement entails more than political participation; it also involves volunteerism. Through engaging youth in community services, young people not only develop positive virtues like citizenship and a sense of belonging to the community, they also hone skills essential for the job market, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, creativity and problem-solving. The HKSARG should encourage and offer more opportunities for young people to give back to the community.

Meet one of the founders of the Second Box, which aims to alleviate elderly poverty through collecting cardboard boxes and aluminium cans from scavengers at a higher-than-market price, and redesigning and selling them.

Meet one of the founders of the Second Box, which aims to alleviate elderly poverty through collecting cardboard boxes and aluminium cans from scavengers at a higher-than-market price, and redesigning and selling them.

National Identity

Facilitate informed decision-making

The HKSARG has had a long history of supporting youth exchange in Mainland China. In 2016/17 alone, the CoY funded more than 300 exchange and internship tours organised by third parties. I personally joined some of these tours to collect students’ feedback. Participants told me that they appreciated authentic exchanges with local people, and free time to explore the destination city and its culture.

Taken at a CoY-funded exchange programme in Inner Mongolia.

Taken at a CoY-funded exchange programme in Inner Mongolia.

 

This has led me to believe that, on the subject of national identity, the HKSARG’s role is to encourage our youth to learn about Mainland China and provide them with adequate opportunities to do so – no more and no less. One’s cultural identity is an individual choice and it can only be meaningfully formed through personal experience and reflection. Measures like rote-learning the Basic Law and Putonghua recital competitions have had limited effect because they convey only superficial knowledge, but do not engender a genuine understanding of Mainland China or create personal resonance.

We must also not forget the fact that Hong Kong has a unique identity and culture that is quite different from that of Mainland China. Because of “One Country, Two Systems”, Hong Kong remains a capitalist economy and has a common law legal system; we continue to use Cantonese and traditional Chinese characters predominantly in our day-to-day lives; and we have very different media outlets. We cannot blame our young people for not feeling as connected as they should be with Mainland China.

Our tech-savvy youth have access to a wide range of information and media online, representing different views on the issue of national identity as well as towards Mainland China. Some sources contain misinformation or stereotypes, and it would be unfortunate if our youth were to base their views on these sources alone. Herein lies the significance of letting our youth have a first-hand experience of Mainland China and its culture.

The HKSARG should provide youth with opportunities to make an informed decision about their cultural identity, while acknowledging that any shift in perception will come from within.

Over the years, exchange and internship programmes in Mainland China have evolved into diversified and interactive learning experiences. For one, destinations now span the whole of China. For another, the types of programmes range from cultural and historical tours, to legal and architectural internships, to volunteer service camps. Precisely because of the scale of these programmes, their standards and outcomes have not been consistent. As the HKSARG continues to support these schemes, it is imperative to evaluate their quality, especially from our young people’s perspective, to make sure that they truly benefit youth.

Technology and Social Media

Enhance Digital Literacy and Minimise Safety Risks

Policy suggestions in this area tend to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and job creation in the IT industry. I would like to shift the focus to the profound impact that technology has on our next generation. Technology influences how young people interact with each other, and how they perceive the world and themselves. As social media becomes ubiquitous, its role in the lives of millennials has expanded beyond socialising with peers; it is now a space for them to voice opinions on public affairs and organise community actions (the social context). For many young people, social media and, more broadly, the Internet has become an important information and news source, and a platform for creating and sharing one’s work (the academic context). Risks and opportunities exist in both contexts. We need to teach our youth how to make the most out of technology whilst minimising the harm it entails.

Cover page for our research report that looked into sexting, among other risks related to teenagers' use of technology.

Cover page for our research report that looked into sexting, among other risks related to teenagers’ use of technology.

In the social context, social media creates opportunities for young people to express themselves, thereby building self-esteem and establishing their own identity. As alluded to above, the HKSARG needs to better leverage social media as a tool to enhance civic awareness and participation. On the other hand, policies should protect our youth from privacy and safety risks, primarily through prevention and education. Cyberbullying is a real concern in many countries, such as the UK and the US, and yet Hong Kong is lacking in our understanding of the issue.

In the academic context, young people can develop competencies from seeking, evaluating and disseminating information online, and the information fluency they acquire is increasingly critical for success in the modern age. On the flip side, they do face risks of information overload and fortuitous searching.

We must ensure that youth possess the digital literacy to find and process online information and assess their credibility and quality.

The HKSARG should engage stakeholders to better understand Hong Kong youth’s social media use, particularly its potential benefits and how we can leverage it as an educational tool. Where risks exist, it should formulate intervention strategies.

The HKSARG can identify synergies between various entities, including technology companies in the private sector and NGOs to create impactful initiatives against cyberbullying.

Resilience and Mental Wellbeing

Build a generation of resilient youth

The suicide cases among students last year have prompted discussions on the mental health of young people and the formation of a dedicated Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides. The Committee has done ample work to tackle the issue of suicide prevention, but I see these cases as also underscoring a broader principle that Hong Kong has overlooked in youth development – resilience. Resilience is a theme that underlies many youth policies across the world, including the UK, Australia and New Zealand. To borrow the UK’s definition, resilience is the “mental toughness” that helps young people deal with challenge, stress, and pressure. Once we shift the focus from suicide prevention to a proactive, holistic strategy to instil resilience, the question becomes:

How do we equip our youth with the ability to cope with adversity and overcome hurdles in life? This should guide the HKSARG in forming strategies on youth development.

Instilling resilience needs to take place in all contexts. Schools, teachers, parents, social workers, and organisers of youth programmes all play a role. There are two points that we can all remind ourselves of when interacting with our youth. First, we need to provide young people with more opportunities to experience success in different ways. We must move away from elitism and a utilitarian view of extra-curricular activities, and foster a culture of diversity where students learn to appreciate their individuality and strengths. Second, we need to encourage our youth to have a growth mindset – that is, to perceive failures and setbacks as opportunities for growth. To do this, we as adults should let young people try and even fail, and praise efforts instead of outcome. It also entails letting young people take initiative and ownership.

Young athletes at the ChelseaFC Soccer School.

Young athletes at the ChelseaFC Soccer School.

The HKSARG should take the lead in recognising resilience as an overarching principle of youth development. This principle should inform decision-making on allocating resources for youth programmes. The HKSARG should also raise awareness among the public of resilience, diversity, and the growth mindset, to foster a supportive environment overall for our youth to grow up in.

Epilogue

Let's build a generation of happy, healthy and resilient youth.

Let’s build a generation of happy, healthy and resilient youth.

This note identifies the issues pertaining to youth in Hong Kong that necessitate attention and action from the HKSARG, and hence the next Chief Executive. While it does not represent the views of all young people or stakeholders in youth development, it is my personal reflection as CoY Chairman after 420 occasions of youth engagement and public outreach during my two-year term.

What is important is that these issues are all inter-connected in terms of their effect on youth. A young person who struggles in school is likely to face obstacles in finding a job and attaining financial security as well. Yet Hong Kong’s policies pertaining to youth have always belonged to the domains of different bureaux working in silos. What is equally noteworthy is that youth work involves more actors than the HKSARG, depending on the issue at hand. Some issues can be addressed by governmental measures alone; some may be more effectively dealt with at a grassroots level or with the support of the private sector.

Herein lies the significance of a youth development policy. It allows the HKSARG to adopt a cross cutting “youth perspective” in making and implementing all of its policies affecting young people.

A youth development policy is Hong Kong’s long term vision for its youth, a unified narrative for all stakeholders, and a strategic roadmap for future actions.

Our youth are our future. They need our support to be happy, healthy and resilient. A youth development policy lays down our way forward to achieve this goal, and I ask that the next Chief Executive support us in this endeavour.

青年發展需要共識

國際學生組織AIESEC早前訪問香港青年,發現接近六成受訪青年認為香港於2030年會變得更差。青年對未來的前景悲觀,但實際上情況如何?

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綜觀世界各地,不少國家及機構都建立了一套量度當地或世界各地青年發展的指數,例如英聯邦及澳洲的《青年發展指數》(Youth Development Index,YDI)。反觀香港,似乎仍未有一套全面、客觀的青年發展指數。有見及此,我們製作了《香港青年發展指數》(HKYDI),以六個範疇、十八項指標,量度過去十年香港青年發展的狀況。HKYDI為香港首個客觀量度青年發展狀況的指數,除了供各界參考之餘,亦希望能藉此引起更多有關青年發展的討論。

六個範疇分別為教育、就業、身心健康、公民參與、預防偏差行為,以及經濟狀況。結果發現,香港的青年發展表現反覆,以2008年的表現最差,2014年最好。但整體而言,香港的青年發展狀況相對十年前確有改善。

各範疇中,公民參與的進步最為明顯,尤其是青年參與義工服務方面。政府近年積極推動義工服務,13-25歲登記為義工的青年人口比率,在過去十年持續上升。至於在選舉參與方面,雖然青年的選民登記率有上升的趨勢,但青年在過去幾屆立法會分區直選的投票率持續下跌。

另一個表現得較好的範疇為預防偏差行為。無論是青年的吸毒比率、被捕比率,以至監禁比率皆持續下跌,三者的跌幅依次為43.2%、36.8%,以及74.5%。這或可歸功於香港警方與學校的合作,「警察學校聯絡計劃」就是其中一個例子。

身心健康的表現亦有輕微改善,其中吸煙比率顯著下跌。話雖如此,過重比率以及青年自殺率都有反覆向上的趨勢。自殺一直為青年死亡的主因之一,近年自殺個案有上升的趨勢,情況令人關注。政府已在今年3月成立防止學生自殺委員會,委員會提交的進度報告就指出,學生自殺涉及多方因素,需要教育界、醫護界和社會福利界共同努力,發展全面性策略。

教育方面,則比2005年略差。雖然青年的全日制就學人口比率,以及適齡學生入讀第一年學士學位課程的人口比率,均呈穩定上升的趨勢,但政府在專上課程學生的人均開支佔人均本地生產總值百分比反覆下降,由2005年的52%,下跌至2014年的25%。教育作為青年發展其中一個最重要的範疇,實在值得政府投放更多資源。

青年的就業狀況亦同樣有惡化的跡象。其中,青年就業不足率以及非從事經濟活動的比率,在過去十年間保持平穩。但青年與非青年的失業率比例卻一直惡化,由2005年的2.2,升至2013年的3.4,反映青年相比起其他年齡群組,在就業市場上較為不利。國際勞工組織指出,其中一個原因或是就業出路越來越多,更多青年選擇持續進修,寧願花多些時間探索自己的興趣,亦不願「入錯行」。

最後,經濟狀況的表現為六個範疇當中最差。雖然居住於低收入家庭的青年人口比率,以及青年就業人士的實質薪酬中位數都有輕微改善,但都不及樓價與青年收入比率的惡化嚴重。該比率由2005年的17,劇升至2014年的36,升幅達112%。近年樓價持續上升,很多青年作出「上樓無望」的控訴,似乎也不無道理。

綜合以上六個範疇的表現,香港青年發展的狀況在公民參與、預防偏差行為,以及身心健康方面確有改善;而在教育、就業,以及經濟狀況方面的表現,則較十年前退步。事實上,每個地方的青年發展都有不同重點,因此在建立青年發展指數時,有需要參考當地的青年政策,尤其對青年的願景,以作為評估青年發展狀況的基準。雖然香港現時未以青年政策勾劃出對青年的願景,但支持青年的措施也不少,HKYDI可以作為客觀量度香港青年發展狀況的參考工具,間接反映相關措施的成效。我們希望能藉HKYDI ,提供一個客觀的討論基礎,並讓社會各界一同探討香港的青年發展。

想了解更詳細的結果,請到:youthpolicy.hk/YDI

我們的青年政策應該是怎樣的?

上次我們談到香港在80年代時差點有青年政策。中央青年事務委員會(下稱「委員會」)所指的「青年政策」,是基於香港的發展趨勢、有遠見的聲明,包含社會對青年的期望和青年發展的大方針這兩項要素。委員會曾考慮制訂具體、包含細節的青年政策,但由於社會對青年政策的內容有意見分歧,而且鑑於青年服務的籌備時間較長,當局若要經常檢討政策細節,不但會耗用大量資源,檢討後實施的改變亦未必能趕上事態發展,最終決定青年政策只包含青年發展的大原則。

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綜觀其他國家和地區的青年政策,以英國、瑞典、澳洲、新西蘭、日本、蒙古和澳門為例,縱然各有細微差別 (詳情請參閱下表),但都顯示青年政策不能只列出各項與青年有關的措施,但缺乏整體願景。英國、瑞典、澳洲、新西蘭和澳門都有全面的青年政策,表達對該國年輕人的願景,並設立中央青年機構,確保所有與青年相關的措施都切合政策對青年的期望。專為青年而設的中央機構的另一個作用,當然是分配資源、避免重複工作。而日本和蒙古的青年政策都比較鬆散,措施分佈教育、就業和社會福利各個領域,由不同政府部門管轄,並沒有中央指引或協調。

香港青年政策發展簡史

上次提到,在八十年代已有人提出香港應設立青年政策,可惜被當時的政府否決,箇中原因要追溯到殖民政府處理青年事務的方法,以及當時香港的社會發展趨勢。然而隨著全球一體化、經濟轉型,青年面對各式各樣的挑戰,要幫助他們開心、健康、堅強地生活,我們實在需要一套全面、長遠和適合香港的青年政策。

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早於六、七十年代,社會上已有聲音要求設立青年政策,可是政府並沒有積極回應。當時為青年而設的服務,由多個政府部門及志願機構提供,他們各有自己的政策和目標,沒有一套共通的原則。青年服務集中於防範青年罪行、為邊緣青年提供更多社會福利,而非以促進青年發展為目標。

八十年代中期是香港青年事務發展的轉捩點。政府成立了中央青年事務委員會,檢討當時的青年服務,研究其他國家青年政策的發展,並諮詢市民對青年政策的意見。委員會發現若加強青年服務之間的協調,則可更有效地運用資源;而且,青年的需要會根據社會的發展趨向不斷轉變,所以有必要作長遠計劃。因此,委員會建議制訂一套包含青年發展原則的青年政策,成立一個諮詢機構,協助檢討及修訂有關政策。

港督最後否決了制訂青年政策的建議,但沒有表述背後原因。我猜想,這跟殖民政府處理青年事務的著眼點有關,亦反映當局擔心其他群組會作出類似的訴求。

時至今日,香港依然沒有青年政策,當年以社會福利為主、以照顧基本需要為目的的措施,在今天的社會環境已不足以協助青年應付成長路上的挑戰。綜觀世界各地的青年政策,雖然各有各的模式、原則,但都反映當地政府對青年發展的承擔。香港是否應參考其他國家的做法,考慮設立青年政策呢?各國的青年政策又包含什麼要素?下一篇文章我會略作介紹。

想知道更多有關香港青年政策發展的歷史,請瀏覽互動時序表 (Interactive Timeline),或按此下載以下文件:

  • 英文備忘錄 English Memorandum – History of Youth Policy in Hong Kong; 
  • 附件一 Appendix 1 – Central Committee on Youth Working Party on Youth Policy, Report on Youth Policy (1988); 
  • 附件二 Appendix 2 – Hong Kong Council of Social Service Children and Youth Division, Opinion Survey on Youths’ Views on Youth Policy (1988); 
  • 附件三 Appendix 3 – Hong Kong Legislative Council, Hansard (11 May 1988) (see p. 1365 onwards for a discussion on youth policy);
  • 附件四 Appendix 4 – Central Committee on Youth, Report on the Need for a Youth Policy in Hong Kong (1989); 
  • 附件五 Appendix 5 – Hong Kong Council of Social Service, Draft Charter for Youth (Fact Sheet No. 4) (1992); 
  • 附件六 Appendix 6 – Chan Wai-Yin Rosa, The Evolution of a Youth Policy in Hong Kong (1990); 
  • 附件七 Appendix 7 – Mok Hon-Fai James, Hegemonic Accounts of Youth in Hong Kong, 1980 – 1997 (1998); and 
  • 附件八 Appendix 8 – Chan Shui-Ching, A Proposal for Formulating a Youth Policy in Hong Kong for the 21st Century (2009)。

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