Business

Business

Hong Kong budget plan subsidizes employment programmes under weak economy

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: BellaHuang、Cynthia Lin、ShukmanSo、Sunny SunEdited by: Mark Chen、AlecLastimosa
  • 2020-02-27

The Hong Kong government will provide additional annual funding of $30 million for employment programmes of the Labour Department to relieve job loss and financial pressure on individuals and companies, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in the Feb 26 budget plan. The economy in Hong Kong has been hit hard by the outbreak of the coronavirus and months of anti-government protests, which makes the labour market subject to huge pressure. According to the Census and Statistics Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Hong Kong has risen to 3.4% from November 2019 to January 2020.  Over the same period, the employed population has decreased by over 10,000 to 3.80 million, and the number of people available for work has dropped by around 16,300 to 3.93 million. "The labour market eased further as economic conditions continued to worsen," said Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare. "The year-on-year decline in total employment widened further," he added. Dr Law said that the dramatic fall in employment rate signified that some people may have chosen to leave the labour force after losing their jobs. In light of the worsened employment situation, Paul Chan encourages employers to hire the elderly, the disabled and young school leavers by raising the ceiling of on-the-job training allowance under different employment programmes. The Youth Employment and Training Programme is a pre-training programme for all young school leavers aged 15 to 24. Participants of the programme can apply for one-month internships provided by the government, welfare agencies and private enterprises, as well as an internship allowance of $45,800. "I came to Hong Kong last year and worked as a handyman. But our industry has been affected by anti-government protests since last September," said Wong Tsz-Hong, 23, who has been working after graduating from high school in Foshan, Guangdong. …

Business

Health sector calls for wise spending on $75 billion fund for Hospital Authority

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Tomiris Urstembayeva、Han Xu、Leone Xue、RonaldFanEdited by: Tomiris Urstembayeva、Han Xu、Leone Xue、RonaldFan
  • 2020-02-26

Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, has made the fight against COVID-19 a priority in this year's budget. In his speech in Legco on Wednesday, he promised $75 billion will be granted to the Hospital Authority, however, some professionals worried that the budget is not going to be spent wisely.  "They are not managing their money effectively. The government should be monitoring how the HA uses the money effectively and properly," said Cyrus Lau Hoi Man, a registered nurse and an officer of Hong Kong Allied Health Professionals and Nurses Association. Out of the $75 billion, $30 billion will be spent on setting up Anti-epidemic Fund to facilitate the provision of prevention supplies by sourcing them worldwide, while supporting local production to satisfy soaring demand.  "Making good use of fiscal reserves to support enterprises and relieve people's hardship is certainly in line with our people's expectations towards the government under the current difficult environment," said Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po. The Hospital Authority will get $600 million to increase manpower and improve the quality of. Services. Another $650 million will go toward supporting the District Health Centre in Kwai Tsing and to set up six more centres around Hong Kong in the coming two years.  "(We) will continue to allocate resources to promote district-based primary healthcare services, with a view to enhancing the public's capability in self-health management and providing community support for chronically ill patients," said Mr Chan.  Rehiring retired doctors and nurses is one of the ways the government is planning to solve the doctor shortage. But according to Mr Lau, this solution is only "a bottle of water to put out a big fire" as retired doctors are not as "energetic" as the younger ones. He also thinks that it's necessary to propose "punishment" to avoid any unfairness in …

Challenges that local businesses are facing

  • 2020-02-26
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: SamuelMo、Carol Mang、Moon LamEdited by: SamuelMo、Carol Mang、Moon Lam
  • 2020-02-26

Government is pumping money for businesses amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. The Financial Secretary has released measures, including reducing profit tax, waiving the rates, and subsidizing the electricity bills, to offer relief to businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak

Business

Coronavirus outbreak forced people to work from home

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Kylan Goh、Leone XueEdited by: Clara Ip、Mark Chen、Mereen Santirad
  • 2020-02-19

Zhang Yuxiang, a fresh graduate lawyer in Fuzhou, mainland China, has been working through online meetings since the coronavirus started. He hasn't come closer to what he dreams about - working in bed while snuggling with a cat. Mr Zhang enjoys working from home since it provides flexibility during office hours. "I have more free time and sometimes I can even loaf on the job since most of my cases are not in a hurry at this stage," he said. Employees in mainland China have started to work online at home to quarantine themselves from the rampant novel coronavirus. On February 13, the Hong Kong government also announced the "Work from Home" arrangement that will last until February 23.  Although it's convenient to work from home, Mr Zhang feels that people may use Internet delay to excuse their inefficiency, adding that communicating with colleagues is one of the major difficulties.  "I spent most of the time waiting for others to reply," said Mr Zhang, feeling annoyed while checking his WeChat to see if he gets any reply from his colleagues. "Even a simple conversation can take up a whole day," he added.  With the city shut down, on-site work could not proceed. "The procuratorate and the court are not open to the public during this period. Trials and many cases that need follow-up are postponed," said Mr Zhang. However, some employees found that working online has brought them closer to their family. "Home office lets my parents understand what I am doing," said Wang Yiqing, a Chinese teacher at a high school in mainland China. Ms Wang's mother is also a teacher, but she could never understand the notion of self-learning.  "She thought self-learning is just an excuse for being an irresponsible teacher," said Ms Wang. "I'm glad she finally …

Business

Copenhagen's rising rainbow economy

The rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride, is common as one strolls down the streets of Copenhagen. Businesses proudly display rainbow stickers on their windows as a show of support for Copenhagen's diverse community.   Copenhagen is widely regarded as one of the most LGBT+ friendly cities in the world. But some say it is just a colorful facade for clever marketing strategies that focus on making a profit. Over The Rainbow Rainbow marketing, rainbow capitalism or the rainbow economy, refer to companies which brand their products with rainbow flags and colors.  This is especially noticeable throughout the city during Copenhagen Pride. The annual event held in this August draws over 300,000 people to the streets to celebrate the diversity of Denmark’s capital city.     Thomas Rasmussen, Head of Communications for Copenhagen Pride, though says the increasing popularity of rainbow marketing may harm businesses and brands because they might be perceived as "attempting to make a profit by catering to the LGBT+ community. There hasn't been any official claim of how big Denmark's rainbow economy market could be, however, the huge profits potential of such a business model can be seen from the American LGBT+ community. According to the latest data from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, America's LGBT+ community holds an estimated buying power of $917 billion annually. "It is of great importance that the marketing directed at the LGBT+ community is backed by action and real change," Mr. Rasmussen said. Different Orientations, Different Views For some LGBT+ community members, such “supports” from the businesses which only can be seen in the pride season might not be genuine enough. "Showing real support is not how you brand yourself one day or a month, but it's about how you run your business and all of the other days of the year. I think that's what really counts," said Sami Kleit, 27, an openly gay student from …

Business

Working holiday scams

Working holidays are a popular way for young people from Hong Kong to spend time living abroad, but some are scammed because they weren't well prepared. Living in a concrete jungle like Hong Kong that's notorious for its expensive real estate, many young people may want to explore other countries by going on a working holiday. These vacations typically involve short term employment in lower paying jobs, such as working on a farm.  A working holiday allows participants to stay in a country for a longer period, ranging from a year to three years, depending on local regulations. Temporary jobs such as strawberry farming or helping out in a winery are popular.  According to the statistics from the Hong Kong government's Labour Department, 44,731 working holiday visas were granted between 2014 and  2018, and Australia has been the most popular among the 14 countries participating in the working holiday scheme. But there have been complaints of holiday makers being scammed because they are unfamiliar with the labour laws.  Garcia Fung, a 35 years-old backpacker, warned of the working holiday traps. "For instance, you may be underpaid by your employers, employers asking employees to transfer money before arrival, or some might even find that don’t have a job because it does not exist," he said. Mr. Fung went to Germany for a working holiday when he was 29.  He had a limited choice of jobs because he did not speak German. He started his first job after staying in Germany for six months. During his stay, he had a job as a box packer. Mr. Fung was paid €2 for each box. However, he realised something was unusual after packing a couple of boxes when he was instructed to pack bags of white powder. When he asked  what the powder was, …

Health & Environment

Weekend review: veganism struggles to grow in Hong Kong

People believe it costs more time and money to produce animal-free food and products in Hong Kong. Last weekend, PMQ Central held the first international trade fair and conference for vegan  living, VeggieWorld Hong Kong. And guests including nutritionists and company founders gave speeches inspire the Hong Kong community to live a vegan lifestyle. Vegan food has been the spotlight in the market. The first VeggieWorld Paris in 2016 attracted 6000 to 8000 visitors with the vegan products , such as superfoods, food supplements and meat and dairy alternatives. More than 50 vegan-friendly brands gathered in VeggieWorld Hong Kong to showcase visitors different types of vegan produce as alternatives for the regular ones like chips, chocolate, bread and cheese. Sarah, a foreigner who is living in Hong Kong, said she was glad to have discovered Mayse Artisan Bakery based in Tai Mei Tuk, a bread store which produces plant-based and gluten-free bread, because she has been suffering from gluten-intolerant.   She said despite the fact that the store is far for her, she is happy to start seeing vegan alternatives around because there had not been much choices in Hong Kong for her before.    Mikus, one of the owners of Mayse Artisan Baker, said although the ancient formula he uses to bake their gluten-free bread is successful, it takes them a maximum of  two days to produce a single loaf of bread. "Most of the bakeries nowadays use bleached flour and instant yeast to make bread faster for sales, but the outcome  is not good at all," said Mikus. Holding her new foldable recycle cup while strolling along stalls in the fair, visitor Jenn, who is not a vegetarian, dropped by briefly knowing there were recyclable cups, which she had "always wanted" on sale.   Though impressed by the creativity …

Business

Minimalism in Hong Kong's minuscule flats

Tax consultant, Erica Ip Ka-yee, struggles to find space to work at home. She lives with her parents. "They [her parents] cannot let go of things easily so they keep everything and I understand them," said Ms. Ip, "This situation is unavoidable when living spaces are generally compact within the city." But Ms. Ip is a minimalist. She said her friends often approached her, asking about how to achieve a visually aesthetically-coherent and clean style, similar to images they see on Instagram and Pinterest. She started blogging about the idea in 2017. "To master minimalism, you have to come to terms with your own life in order to see real virtual changes in your living environment," said Ms. Ip. She explained that reflection is important in order to live a minimal life. But she believed few in Hong Kong truly give up their material desires when even their basic needs, such as proper shelter, cannot be guaranteed. Minimalism first emerged in the 1960s as an artistic and abstract ideology in New York, in which artworks were mainly composed of simple shapes, such as triangles and squares, according to information from Tate Modern, an art gallery in London. Today, minimalism has become a social trend that is more than just an artistic concept. Polish designer and college lecturer, Szymon Hanczar has been making the headlines since July 2015 when his idea on a 140 square feet "micro-apartment" appeared in Dezeen, an online international design magazine. "Extremely small flats are great for people who are minimalists, who want to enjoy city life," Mr. Hanczar said. According to Dezeen, Mr. Hanczar's apartment focused mainly on "comfort and functionality" by including merely the "essentials". For example, he hooked his bike, which had been an "integral element of life" for him in Wroclaw, over the wall …

Business

Co-living: Deluxe, dorm-style housing thrives amidst skyrocketing rents

Right next to the entrance door at the flat, a pile of chaotic shoes scattered on the floor. Their millennial owners were winding through the 200 sq ft house on a party night. There is soothing melody swimming through the room as some are preparing dinner in the open kitchen. Finally, the tempting aroma of the cooked food hijacks everyone to the glossy dining table, regardless of whether they are indulging in booze, casual chats or watching movies in the living room. At the first sight, the size of the place doesn't look much different from any other cramped subdivided flats in the city. Yet, there are small details that stand out. Apart from spotless communal living room, bathroom and open-kitchen, the flat is embellished with a modern twist of high-spec, sophisticated décor and even a digital piano. The reason: it is a co-living house. The contemporary concept of co-living, a manifestation of the emerging trend of sharing economy, means  "any shared living space among total strangers". It involves living in close proximity and sharing of resources. The communal nature of such housing arrangement is way beyond just flat-sharing — it also stresses the need for social belonging, community and affiliation. The popularity of such housing arrangement has slowly swept across Asia in recent years. In Mainland China, the term co-living first emerged when a group of youngsters found the YOU+ International Youth Community in 2012 upon their return from the overseas. Soon by the end of 2016, nearly 90 operators boomed across the country, leading by the largest co-living operator Vanke Port Arrangement that has managed more than 60,000 units. Likewise, Singapore has had investment companies investing in co-living startups, such as Helmet. Despite co-living still being a novel idea in Hong Kong in general, some property owners have already seized …

Business

Investors unfazed over grey areas of Bitcoin regulation

Hong Kong has seen the rise of money laundering and illicit payments in this year. According to the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), there has been 3671 cases of deception-related crimes reported in the first half of 2018 -- including email scams and investment fraud. In addition, Hong Kong's anti-fraud squad has discovered that thousands of Hong Kong bank accounts have been used to launder about $4 million in the past year. Some of these fraudsters made use of Bitcoin -- a popular type of cryptocurrency -- to commit these crimes. First founded in 2009, Bitcoin does not need to rely on a central bank or single administrator to be sent from user to user.  To ensure its security, Bitcoin also uses cryptography to secure and verify transactions. As such, it is possible to conduct transactions anonymously, allowing these fraudsters to make use of its anonymous nature for ransom or blackmail. This also makes it difficult for police to identify fraudsters. Due to these crimes, local banks are increasingly wary about cryptocurrencies, which makes it more difficult for investors to obtain bank accounts to trade Bitcoin. For example, local cryptocurrency exchange Gatecoin received a notification from Han Seng Bank that their company bank account is suspended without further explanation last year. The exchange was forced to create a foreign bank account to continue with their operations. Banks are also charging high interest rates for many cryptocurrency exchanges in order to discourage investors to mine Bitcoin locally. according to the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong. These concerns have prompted some nations to scrutinise their current cryptocurrency policies. For example, China is one of the most extreme regulators of cryptocurrency trading. The nation has started to ban Bitcoin miners, while also freezing bank accounts associated with cryptocurrency exchanges. They have even blocked …