Do Employers and Employees Approve of the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme?
MWYO releases “Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme” Impact Study Phase 1 Report
• Over 65% of employer and employee respondents stated that the Scheme has met their expectations
• Half of the employers interviewed considered that the Scheme’s eligibility criteria had limited their choice of applicants, while a higher salary level might have attracted a larger number of suitable applicants
• The Scheme could be extended for two years, but should be enhanced and undergo a three-year impact assessment
• The Government could set clearer policy objectives and positioning for the Scheme, such as repackaging the Scheme as the “GBA Talent Scheme” and raising the allowance amount to attract more highly competitive applicants; restricting eligibility to Hong Kong permanent residents only; allowing young people with more work experience, i.e. those who graduated up to five years prior, to apply, etc.
In the 2020 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced the “Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme” (hereafter the Scheme), to encourage enterprises with operations in both Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area (hereafter the GBA) to recruit and deploy local university/ tertiary institution graduates to work in the Mainland cities of the GBA. To assess the effectiveness of the Scheme, MWYO launched a longitudinal impact study in four phases, conducting online surveys and in-depth interviews. The first phase aims at understanding the views, expectations and difficulties encountered by the employers and employees. MWYO releases its report for Phase 1 today (20 Jan 2022).
This study is a collaboration between MWYO and the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (hereafter HKGCC). Two questionnaires were used, one for employers who have participated in the Scheme and the other for employees under the Scheme. HKGCC distributed the employer questionnaire to its members and the members distributed the employee questionnaire to their employees. We received 20 valid responses from the employers and 140 valid responses from the employees, amounting to response rates of about 16% of employers and 13% of employees who have participated in the Scheme respectively. We also conducted in-depth interviews with 10 employers, to present a more comprehensive analysis.
Around 80% of employers and employees considered the Scheme to be beneficial
According to survey results, 82% of employer respondents stated that the Scheme helped them understand the level of job-related skills of the young graduates they hired. 77% of employee respondents considered that their current companies were suitable for them in the long term. 78% of employee respondents considered that the Scheme supported their professional development, while 93% reported that the Scheme supported their career development. 81% of employee respondents mentioned that the Scheme supported their life development beyond their careers.
Over 65% of employer and employee respondents stated that the Scheme has met their expectations
70% of employer and 66% of employee respondents reported that the Scheme was able to fulfil most of their expectations. Through the Scheme, the employer respondents wished to support the policy objectives of the Hong Kong Government and Central Government (support Hong Kong youth development: 60%; support the Central Government’s GBA development plans: 55%), as well as support their company’s business and human resource development (support long-term human resource development: 60%; support GBA business expansion: 55%; gain a better understanding of how young employees in Hong Kong can cater to the needs of the company: 45%). The majority of the employers suggested in the in-depth interviews that they hoped to support the Government’s policy objectives and help achieve their company’s development plans. A few employers wished to fulfil corporate social responsibility and encourage Hong Kong young people to learn more about the GBA. 85% of employee respondents expected the Scheme to help them further their careers, while 72% hoped to gain more work experience.
Employers encountered difficulties in administrative and human resource matters
Most employers interviewed in the study cited difficulties in administrative and human resource matters related to the Scheme. Most of the eight employers who have successfully recruited under the Scheme stated in the in-depth interviews that they found the taxation matters for employees under the Scheme to be confusing.
Eligibility conditions restricted the choice of applicants during recruitment
Half of the ten employers we interviewed stated that the Scheme’s strict eligibility conditions limited the candidate pool during recruitment. Around two-thirds of the applicants were ineligible. For instance, they were not lawfully employable in Hong Kong, or they graduated from university before 2019. Several employers stated that they could not attract suitable talent for their positions either because there was insufficient supply in the job market or because the wages were not attractive enough. Most employers stated that some candidates rejected their job offers, interviews or quit their jobs early on, as they either chose other job offers or were concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic.
10 policy recommendations to enhance the Scheme
The Scheme has been beneficial for both the employers and young employees, but they have encountered obstacles throughout the initial stages of the Scheme, including the design, promotion, application and screening processes, and recruitment and onboarding arrangements. Upon analysing survey data and observations from in-depth interviews with the employers, we have devised 10 policy recommendations to improve the clarity of the policy objectives and positioning of the Scheme.
The Government should continue to implement the Scheme and announce a two-year extension in the 2022-23 Budget. The Scheme should last for three years for a more comprehensive impact assessment to take place, so that the Government may determine whether to make the Scheme permanent or terminate it in the long run.
Could repackage the Scheme as the “GBA Talent Scheme” and raise the allowance amount, to attract more highly competitive applicants.
Only Hong Kong permanent residents should be eligible for the Scheme, rather than including all Hong Kong residents who are lawfully employable in Hong Kong. Mainland students graduating from Hong Kong universities should not be eligible, as most of them already have a deep understanding of the GBA or may not consider working or living in Hong Kong in the long run.
A quota could be set on Hong Kong employees graduating from Mainland universities, say 20% of all positions.
Hong Kong young people with more years of work experience may be more interested in participating in the Scheme. The eligibility criteria should be widened from only admitting those graduating from university within three years prior, to admitting those graduating within five years prior. Employers could offer a more competitive salary for applicants with more relevant work experience.
The Government could review its arrangement of giving Innovation and Technology posts special treatment. Under the Scheme, 700 out of 2,000 posts were set aside for Innovation and Technology positions, leaving fewer positions for all other sectors. The Government should consider whether this is an ideal arrangement, and whether a number of positions could be set aside for other positions as well, such as those recruiting graduates from natural science and humanities subjects.
Under the current Scheme, only Hong Kong-registered companies with business operations in both Hong Kong and GBA were eligible. The eligibility criteria for employers could be widened to include Hong Kong-registered companies with only affiliated companies in the GBA. This type of companies can offer great opportunities for Hong Kong young people to gain work experience in the GBA as well.
The Government should provide more information and utilise more effective promotional channels. For instance, the Scheme’s official website should display more FAQs. The Government could also reach out to employers and potential employees through organising career talks and workshops with university career centres and alumni offices, setting up a task force to exchange views with the employers and employees, and collaborating with social media platforms and websites commonly visited by young people for promotional campaigns.
The Government should improve the efficiency of the application and allowance application process by making better use of online platforms, such as accepting applications through online forms, pre-screening applications based on eligibility, sorting applications according to the job requirements. The employers should be able to obtain the allowance online, thereby reducing the administration costs of filling in application forms.
The Government should periodically assess the effectiveness of the Scheme throughout its implementation process, in order to gather evidence to enhance the Scheme, or to initiate similar policies in the future. This impact assessment should be longitudinal in nature and examine the career development of the employees after the Scheme and the long-term changes in hiring patterns of the employers.
Dr. Law Cheung-kwok, Special Advisor at MWYO, said, “Since the Scheme has not been implemented before, we have identified many areas which warrant adjustments and improvements, including the design, promotion, application and screening processes, and recruitment and onboarding arrangements. In this phase of the study, we have offered recommendations for the Government to consider, so that the Scheme’s feasibility and effectiveness may be maximised. In the later phases of the study, covering the middle and late stages of the Scheme, we aim to have a broader understanding of the implementation and effectiveness of the Scheme, and offer more comprehensive recommendations for the Government.” In the following phase of the study (the 2nd stage of the Scheme), MWYO hopes to further understand the personal development and changes of the employees under the Scheme, in order to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of the Scheme.
Full Report: https://mwyo.org/en/7fGXgW