Thousands of stay-at-home parents in Hong Kong’s working-class families could be persuaded to rejoin the labour force every year with the launch of a massive scheme promising after-school care for their children.
The mentorship programme would go beyond helping pupils with homework and serving evening meals, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung revealed to the South China Morning Post yesterday, adding that the plan has been seeded with HK$400 million – half from government and half from big business.
“[Students] will be inspired by professionals from accounting firms, hospitals and retired officials, who will show them how to cope with life’s challenges. They will be nurtured and have their language skills sharpened,” Cheung said.
One of the donors is understood to be the Centum Charitas Foundation, set up by scions of the city’s business heavyweights.
The workforce is projected to start shrinking in three years, from 3.71 million in 2018 to 3.52 million in 2031, and Cheung’s initiative comes a fortnight after more measures to replenish the workforce were unveiled in the chief executive’s policy address. These included quadrupling the number of subsidised all-day child-care places to 6,200.
Cheung, describing the fast-greying demographics of the city as a looming storm, said the scheme would be launched in September, offering “whole-person development opportunities” from 4pm to 9pm for primary and early-secondary school pupils.
The government plans to assign HK$600,000 for each chosen school and every year will target 10,000 less-privileged students recommended by teachers in districts like Sham Shui Po, Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai and Western.
“It will free up mothers. It also promotes a tripartite cooperation, reducing the city’s hatred of the rich,” he said. “The kids might feel grateful when they grow up and might be given internships … The next chief executive may even be chosen from among this bunch.”
The city has about 500,000 stay-at-home mothers, of whom 8 per cent – about 40,000 – said in a census survey three years ago that they would consider returning to work if the right support was given.
Cheung said the scheme would go beyond Project WeCan, which was launched in 2011 by property tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching of the Wheelock conglomerate. Woo’s HK$500 million project aims to mentor 40,000 less-privileged secondary-school pupils.
“While some may see this government as having lots of political issues … the vessel is steaming ahead steadfastly,” Cheung said, explaining the government’s position after the Occupy protests.
“Some worry whether Hong Kong is heading down the road of welfarism and populism as the government needs to win hearts and minds; we are determined to build a caring society here, but without being populist.”
The director of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres, Si-si Liu Pui-shan, questioned whether the programme covered public holidays and if schools were willing to open late as it meant extra work for them.
news source & image credits: scmp.com