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Ethnic minorities protest inequality in employment, retraining

07 March 2016

Citing reports showing nearly 76% of menial jobs go to ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, a group mainly comprising Pakistanis and Nepalese protested outside the Legislative Council on Feb. 24 against the inequality in employment access.

The protest by the AIM Group which coincided with the budget presentation by Financial Secretary John Tsang, was meant to call government attention to their plight. “Today we gathered in front of the LegCo to urge the government to prompt amelioration for employment and retraining policies among ethnic minorities,” AIM said.

Citing an Employee Retraining Board report, AIM said that due to the language barrier, 75.8% of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong do menial jobs, compared with 19.5% of their Chinese counterparts.

The latest report on Poverty Situation on Ethnic Minorities shows 35-45% of Pakistanis, Nepalese, Thais and Indonesians were engaged in elementary occupations, and about 60% of them earned less than the median income.

What’s worse is that 50.2% of the Pakistanis earn lower than half of the median wage. “Ethnic minorities are always at a disadvantage in their workplaces, particularly here in Hong Kong. They do not only suffer difficulties in Chinese language ability but they are relegated to doing menial jobs,” the group said.

AIM also cited a survey in June-July last year by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers (Kowloon) which showed that 125 ethnic minorities who looked for jobs in Hong Kong over the past five years were successfully interviewed through convenient sampling.

To improve their situation, the ethnic minorities proposed short-term measures that could enable them to compete better for available jobs.

These include requiring the Labour Department to provide EM jobseekers enhanced telephone interpretation services within 20 minutes of their enquiry to prod frontline staff to ensure equal access to the department’s services.

The ethnic minorities also want the department to restore its job-matching service which was cancelled in 2010, to encourage employers to consider EM jobseekers, follow up their progress and match vacancies with their qualifications.

AIM said the Centre’s survey showed that interview arrangements, vacancy information and career counseling services are needed by a large number of EM jobseekers.

The Centre said survey respondents lamented job opportunities lost due to discrimination, language and cultural barriers, and a lack of information on the local job market.

It called for improvement in the service through cultural sensitivity training and follow-up of cases, suggesting right rapport and timely follow-up of the jobseekers are key to a higher employability rate.

For the long term, AIM want the Department to hire permanent EM staff to man a special counter that will handle employment service for EM jobseekers.

“This move will hit two the birds with one stone. On the one hand, it will solve the language barrier that plagues the effectiveness of the service and, on the other hand, bridge cultural gaps. This will cut down resources for interpretation services and enable enhancement of the service,” AIM said.
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