Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong was established in 1947 and committed to being a collective voice for employers in Hong Kong. In the past decades we have been heavily involved in debates on matters of employers’ concern including but not limited to employee protection, labour demand and supply, collective bargaining, statutory minimum wage, standard working hour, education reform, etc. Simultaneously, we have actively played a catalyst role for employers in promoting good employment practices through regular correspondences, seminars and sharing sessions.
Founded in 1947 just after the end of the Second World War, the Federation traces its origins to the early days of Hong Kong’s spectacular post-war growth. Hong Kong was not immune to the trends sweeping the rest of the industrialised world – and in particular Britain – where confrontation between employers and employees was growing. At that time, for many business leaders, it seemed that the prosperity of Hong Kong – even its future – was under serious threat from disruptive labour groups. A group of major employers thus decided to set up the Federation – a trade union to focus on labour issues
After a year of the foundation, membership of the Federation significantly reached 100 and the inaugural Annual General Meeting was held at the Hong Kong Hotel.
Before the Handover
The Federation was more focused than most other employers’ groups to take the lead in expressing employers’ concern to Government, unions and the public. In 1950, it was the first time for Hong Kong to have its own delegation to participate in the Asian Regional Conference of International Labour Organization and the Federation was the representation of the Employers’ Delegate to attend the conference at Ceylon. In 1967, the Federation published a booklet on Joint Consultation between Management and Employees with special reference to Hong Kong.
The Federation maintained close connection with other associations as considerable joint alliance. The Joint Associations Committee on Employer/Employee Relations with Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Hong Kong Industries and The Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong was formed in 1967, for example.
Successive colonial Policy Secretaries applied the phrase “positive non-intervention” to most issues and apart from a few minor changes, labour laws remained relatively relaxed – the envy of employers in more restrictive jurisdictions. In support to progressive improvement of employee protection, the Federation was one of the key advocates for the establishment of the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund in 1985. In addition, the Federation cooperated with the Department of Monetary Affairs in 1987 in setting up a questionnaire which proposed to require administrators of all approved retirement schemes to provide necessary information in order to construct a statistical base.
The Federation underwent a revitalisation programme in 1993 to capture the upsurge trend on employment issues. Annual pay exercise was initiated in the year to keep track of the pay movement and manage market expectation on pay adjustment.
With rapid creation of wealth at all levels, sectoral labour shortage and end of colonial rule in sight, the Government was under increasing pressure to regulate the employment market. A spate of laws affecting every aspect of employment was introduced. In response, the Federation formed different committees and working groups to examine respective legislative proposals and to voice out employers' concerns for a better employment context in Hong Kong. In 1995, Mandatory Provident Fund Working Group was set up to initiate the discussion on MPF issues. A China Employment Issues Working Committee was formed and initiated the first official visit to Beijing and Shanghai for communicating with the Central Government.
In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to mainland China, ending over a century of British rule. This year also marked the Federation’s 50th Anniversary of establishment, a Gala Dinner was held at Conrad Hong Kong. The Federation also successfully obtained 11 seats in the Election Committee for the first Legislature of the HKSAR.
After the Handover
In 1999, the Federation published the “Guide to Good Employment Practices” which set out the standards of fair, reasonable and lawful practices of various aspects of employment. Fourth editions were then updated and reprinted in 2003, 2010, 2015, 2021 respectively.
From 2000 onwards, the Federation has been engaged more in the consultation and review of policies and has conducted various surveys on topical issues so as to play a role in moving the city forward. In 2000, IT Manpower Needs Survey was conducted to address manpower shortage in IT industry. In 2001, the Federation was invited to join the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Operations Review Committee to review the operation details of MPF since its implementation. The Federation also launched its website in the same year to widen its communication channel with members and to assimilate into digital era.
Four brand new initiatives were introduced as a membership service enhancement in 2006 – “Meet with the Government”, “Talk to a CEO”, “Consultancy Talk” and “Connect Mainland”.
The Federation celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2007 and held a Gala Dinner at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Hundreds of guests attended and congratulated the Federation’s success over the years. To signify another page of development, a new three-tier structure of the Federation was introduced – Council, General Committee and Executive Committee at the same year. More member activities were also initiated to promote exchanges among members and allow them to learn from each other.
In 2009, the Federation set up the Minimum Wage Committee in response to the implementation of Statutory Minimum Wage in 2011 and launched the first community-wide photo contest titled “Care & Laugh - where a vigorous work life begins” to encourage a caring and happy workplace.
The Federation started publishing the Quarterly Journal “CONNECT” in 2010 as a communication platform to convey messages and information to the members and the public.
Since 2013, the Federation started launching an annual campaign “Happy@Work” to promote workplace wellness and a happy workplace. In 2016, the Federation organised the first Duty of Care Award Hong Kong Charter with the International SOS Foundation as well as the Joint Business Community Forum on retirement protection with four other business associations.
The Federation launched two new initiatives namely “Young Executive Development Club’’ and “Senior Executive Network’’, aiming to provide a platform for executives of member companies to broaden their career horizons and exchange ideas on topical issues.
In 2017, the Council and General Committee Members of the Federation met with Chief Executive Election candidates: Mrs Regina Ip, Mrs Carrie Lam, Mr John Tsang and Mr Woo Kwok-hing.
The Federation also held a Gala Dinner to celebrate its 70th Anniversary in the same year.
In January 2020, the Federation kick-started the biannual Business Prospect Survey with a simplified survey design. It captured not only up-to-date market information for benchmarking the latest market trend and conducting business forecast, but also members’ confidence on business outlook through the Employers’ Confidence Index (ECI), which hopefully will become one of the key indexes for the business sector in Hong Kong to grasp the latest business sentiment over time and to receive useful information for preparing business plan.
The Federation also organised several online sharing in 2020 to help members overcome the challenges brought by the transformation of work mode in the midst of the pandemic.
Ready for the Future
Much yet remains to be done and indeed, as society changes and evolves. We are committed to continuing to broaden the membership base and develop a wider range of activities and services for members. With the concerted effort of members and committees, the Federation continue to look forward to building on its long and distinguished history serving the employers of Hong Kong and the Community.