HK leader Carrie Lam warns against anti-mainland China stigma over policy address’ youth job scheme

30-Nov-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:50 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader has warned against stigmatising the city’s economic integration with mainland China over a new scheme that subsidises the hiring of local university graduates to work over the border, insisting the move is urgently required to tackle youth unemployment.

The day after unveiling her fourth policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also told a radio phone-in show that she “no longer cared about” her consistently low approval ratings following last year’s anti-government protests.

Lam on Thursday was repeatedly accused on the programme of relying too heavily on the Greater Bay Area integration Beijing’s plan to turn Hong Kong, Macau and a cluster of Guangdong cities into an economic powerhouse for her policy blueprint.

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The job scheme offers financial incentives for Hong Kong businesses with a presence in both the city and elsewhere in the bay area to recruit local graduates and then send them over the border to work.

About 2,000 Hong Kong graduates were expected to be employed under the scheme for the technology and finance industries, with the government bankrolling most of their wages for 18 months.

However, some phoning in to speak to Lam on the programme were critical of the plan.

“Every city should make efforts to retain local young talent, instead of giving them money to become a trailblazer for other places,” said a male caller surnamed Lam.

The chief executive said there was an urgent need to help young Hongkongers explore opportunities, especially in areas such as technology where there had been a lack of jobs, a requirement made more pressing by the high level of youth unemployment.

The number of jobless people aged between 20 and 24 has soared 70 per cent over a year, from 23,700 to 40,300, according to Census and Statistics Department figures from June to August.

“We are bracing for tough times ahead in the economic recovery. I don’t want our youngsters to miss the boat there are so many opportunities up north… Please do not look at the scheme through coloured spectacles,” she said, adding the policy was proposed by a sizeable mainland corporation which connected with more than 10 other tech companies to offer jobs for Hong Kong graduates.

The city leader said the government would endeavour to clear up misunderstandings about the development opportunities on the mainland, adding that Hong Kong should use its strength to provide professional services to the bay area, which has a population of 70 million people and a sizeable middle class.

“Some believed that my emphasis on the bay area was to please Beijing and marginalise Hong Kong… Some are now trying to stigmatise the bay area concept, which will only bring harm,” she said.

Lam, who remains the city’s least popular leader since its 1997 handover from British to Chinese sovereignty, was also asked how she could improve her approval ratings, which have been in the doldrums since the eruption of social unrest last June.

“I no longer care much about those figures. I’ve been attacked personally and demonised. Whatever I said on social media platforms have been misrepresented. I know it would be difficult to counter the negative image,” she said.

“What I can only do is to work hard and let citizens know that we won’t become a lame duck like some foreign governments do when one-third of my term remains.”

According to the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, Lam’s popularity rating had plunged to a record low of 18.2 during Hong Kong’s citywide protests, originally triggered by her plans for an extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to the mainland.

The latest figure two weeks ago showed her rating had climbed to 30.8.


Category: Hong Kong

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