Public Policy Research - Layman summaries of projects funded in 7th Round

CityU 1003-PPR-09
Exploring Peripheralisation and Residualisation in Hong Kong`s Public Rental Housing: New Policy Challenges
PI: Prof Raymond Scott FORREST

This project has examined the changing role of public rental housing in Hong Kong. It has set developments in Hong Kong in an international perspective in which public rental housing has typically experienced a decline through policies of privatisaton and reduced new investment.

Using data drawn from five waves of the census, a large social survey of over 3000 households and more in depth work, the study has shown how the role of public renting has changed since the early 1980s-and how it is likely to change in the medium term. Public rental housing in Hong Kong continues to serve a large section of the community but has become more strongly associated with lower income groups and the elderly. However, compared to many other public rental sectors it still accommodates a mix of households. It also appears to have strong support across the social spectrum.

The papers and data from this project provide important new inputs into local debates about government interventions in the housing sphere. These debates will inevitably gather pace and become more prominent because of the current local political climate and continuing affordability difficulties in the home ownership market.

LU 3001-PPR-09
Audience Development as Cultural Policy in Hong Kong since 1997
PI: Prof Ching Kiu Stephen CHAN

Audience Development has significant policy implications on the success of the West Kowloon Cultural District in transforming HK into a regional cultural hub over the decades ahead. Aside from tourism, WKCD concerns sustainable development of the local community as a key resource for contemporary cultural formation.

Often reduced to "arts marketing", the diverse meanings, objectives and approaches of AD are neglected, when it can actually be an effective strategy to cope with issues of the public access to the arts, social and cultural exclusion, as well as cultural rights, identities, diversity and citizenship.

In this first study of audience development in HK, we provide an account of its policy background and context since 1997, and examine how AD strategies may inform long-term cultural policy-making. Our case studies of six AD clusters cover the major cultural organizations in mapping the constraints and possibilities of future arts development. With case reports on the Leisure & Cultural Services Department, HK Arts Development Council, HK Arts Festival, HK Arts Centre, the Major Performing Arts Groups (represented by City Contemporary Dance Company, HK Philharmonic Orchestra, HK Repertory), and Cantonese Opera audience development, the project aims to provide a groundwork for HK's cultural planning.

CUHK 4003-PPR-09
The Impact of Socioeconomic Backgrounds on the Academic Achievement of Senior Secondary School Students: The Case of NSS Liberal Studies
PI: Prof Stephen Wing-Kai CHIU

This project examines the implementation of the Diploma of Secondary Education Liberal Studies in its first three-year cycle. It looks at students' and parents' views on the subject and also various aspects of individual and familial backgrounds that are likely to impact upon students' performance in the subject. It also examine whether different teaching practices in schools will influence different academic performance in Liberal Studies. Teachers have also been interviewed to probe into the challenges facing them in implementing the subject and their strategies in overcoming such challenges. The project not only will allow the educational community to ascertain whether socioeconomic inequalities have a significant impact on student performance in the subject, it will also help forge better policies and support measures to further improve the conduct of the subject at the school level.

Through the researchers' connections to the LS community, findings and insights from the project will be shared with policy makers and the wider educational community. It will enhance understandings of the subject and help promote more intensive discussion on how to move forward with the curriculum design and implementation.

CUHK 4004-PPR-09
Economic returns to postsecondary sub-degree education
PI: Prof Stephen Yue-ping CHUNG

To meet the needs of economic growth and human resources demand, the HKSAR Government proposed in the 2000 Policy Address that higher education should be made available to at least 60% of the youth by 2010. Over the past 10 years, higher education in Hong Kong has been developing rapidly. In fact, university first degree places funded by the Government did not show an obvious increase from 1996 to 2006. The percentage rise was actually a result of the growth in 'post-secondary sub-degree education', including various certificate, diploma, higher diploma programmes and the newly developed associate degree programmes. However, they have been criticized as a 'high cost but low return' investment for students.

The present study funded by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme, the University Grants Committee, to investigate the economic returns to post-secondary sub-degree education in Hong Kong. Based on the analysis of the 1996, 2001 and 2006 census data, persistent and high rate of returns to education in post-secondary sub-degree education was observed. There was also relative advantage of graduate from post-secondary sub-degree education in their employment condition and earnings over the matriculated graduates who do not receive post-secondary sub-degree education.

CUHK 4005-PPR-09
Anatomy of a Financial Centre: A systemic analysis of Hong Kong's legal and regulatory framework for its securities market
PI: Prof David C. DONALD

This study highlighted the particular risks and challenges that Hong Kong corporate and securities law face, and proposed solutions to address them. Hong Kong's economy depends to a significant extent on its quality as an international financial centre. Companies list their shares on a securities exchange that operates in an environment with good regulation and strong rule of law. Banks and other financial institutions are attracted by activity on securities exchanges and profit from offering support services for listed companies. Both Singapore and Shanghai would like to take business away from Hong Kong. For this reason, Hong Kong needs to keep its company law, securities law, and tax law solid and competitive. It must understand the local risks disclosed in this study, such as the power of "tycoon" shareholders and mainland Chinese government administrations in listed state owned companies. Its legislation must keep the playing field fair. Simultaneously, Hong Kong must continue to pursue its comparative advantage as the "offshore" market that is closest to the mainland Chinese economy. It must continue to link its financial infrastructure and legal and regulatory systems with those of mainland China, yet retain its rigorous application of the rule of law.

CUHK 4006-PPR-09
Evaluation of the Impact of Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme in Hong Kong and its Potential Extension
PI: Prof Sian Meryl GRIFFITHS

The HK Government launched the 3-year elderly healthcare voucher scheme in January 2009, aiming to provide choices for elderly people additional to the existing public primary care service, thus reducing their reliance on public healthcare services (public-private imbalance). Our study explored the impact of introducing a voucher scheme as part of healthcare reform to encourage greater use of private primary care services. Our results showed that the voucher scheme still has room for improvement to make it more effective. There appears to be a lack of interest in the voucher scheme from both supply and demand side. Both the elderly and healthcare professionals expressed concerns on the low amount of subsidy. The inertia of the elderly already seeking care in the public sector, and participation of healthcare providers that the elderly usually see are main factors impeding the desired changes. Partly based on our results, the Government extended the voucher scheme for another three years with doubled voucher amount and a health check programme plan in partnership with private providers. This voucher scheme has made a start in establishing a mechanism for the provision of healthcare services with government subsidies through public-private partnership, and continuously monitoring and evaluation is needed.

CU 4009-PPR-09
Policy for culture-led urban regeneration and development
PI: Prof Desmond Cheuk-kuen HUI

This research examines from the policy perspective urban regeneration with the focus and reference to cultural consideration. The term 'culture' and 'culture-led' could be understood on various levels. In the fundamental level, culture refers to the broad significance of living and hence urban regeneration should be conceived and carried out according to how people live. In a more specific sense, culture also refers to the more refined appreciation of the symbolic meaning in life and hence relating to the arts and spiritual realm of being - hence urban regeneration should cater for this aspiration of the individuals and communities: issues such as heritage conservation and the making of cultural districts. Lastly, culture in the new economic era and its "post-modern" sense also asserts itself as an important tool towards wealth and job creation - thus urban regeneration should allow this new dimension of culture to function within the creative economy: the development of creative industries and creative clusters as hubs of creativity. This project attempts to analyze and formulate urban regeneration policy for Hong Kong that consider culture on the above levels - with case studies from international and regional examples for comparison and reference.

CUHK 4013-PPR-09
Medico-social Impact of a Comprehensive Multi-disciplinary Program for the Care of Fragility Fracture of the Elderly -Implications for Healthcare Policy in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Kwok-Sui LEUNG

Most fragility hip fractures are resulted from fall. It accounts for most of the deaths and costs of injuries. The risk of fall and re-fracture is highest within the first year post-fracture. The aged group will increase dramatically from 13% to 30% in next 30 years. Huge medical and economic burden are brought to the society. Therefore a comprehensive rehabilitation program for fragility fractures is important. This study investigated the cost-effectiveness of the multi-disciplinary management program of fragility hip fracture comparing with the conventional care. Intervention group showed greater improvement in balancing ability and mobility. The relative risk of re-fracture in intervention group was 85% lower than control group. Our results confirmed the average cost of the multi-disciplinary program is $10,000 lower than the conventional care per patient, therefore it is cost-effective. It is estimated that there would be a saving of $50-140 million annually in 2041 with the implementation of the program. The findings of the study provided solid evidence for policy makers to consider the introduction of this multi-disciplinary management program with sustainable community engagement into our healthcare system. Ultimately, with the effective utilization of healthcare resources, the holistic care of patients could be enhanced.

CUHK 4014-PPR-09
Political recruitment in an administrative state: grooming political talents for Hong Kong
PI: Prof Ngok MA

The three venues studied do not pose effective political recruitment or training channels for the future fully-democratic regime. The training is mostly focused on skills related to council work, especially local-level networking, organization and problem-solving skills. There is little or inadequate training on political perspectives, ideology, and policy knowledge and research skills. This disables all these channels from grooming political talents into future political leaders capable of serving at the territory-wide level for Hong Kong.

The findings call for an opening of government positions to allow think tank and political party people to have the chance to get into the government, to facilitate a better exchange of perspectives and expertise. The government needs to reform its policy-making process and coordinates research resources better to strengthen its policy research capacity. It also calls for a major reform of the local councils to allow the councillors to have more decision-making power and have a wider perspective.

CUHK 4017-PPR-09
Noncognitive Human Capital as a Generator of Social Inequality: New Evidence and Policy Implications for Education in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Tony TAM

For much of the last half century, the focus on cognitive human capital in public educational policy has adverse policy consequences. This narrow focus has not only hampered our understanding of the sources of social inequality but also limited the effectiveness of schooling as a policy tool for the reduction of social disadvantages. The pessimism about the inequality-reduction role of schooling is premature.

This study builds on the emerging evidence that non-cognitive human capital is central to the determination of academic success and labor market outcomes in a modern economy. Unlike cognitive human capital which is largely determined at an early age, the non-cognitive component is malleable even quite late in life even though the cost of intervention and change will be higher later in life.

The new empirical study shows that for Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan alike, conscientiousness (dependability, consistency, ability to defer gratification) is not just an ingredient for a good student but also a key predictor of future success in educational attainment and career achievement. Even though conscientiousness is strongly correlated with family background, it is also a strong substitute for advantageous family background. The policy implications of the insight are profound.

CUHK 4020-PPR-09
The Impact of the introduction of a statutory minimum wage on labour market conditions and the quality of life of vulnerable groups in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Hung WONG

This research examines the impact of the statutory minimum wage which was enforced in May 2011 on three vulnerable groups, namely the disabled, the CSSA recipients and the new arrival women in Hong Kong. Before the introduction of the statutory minimum wage, this research interviewed 617 respondents face-to-face. After 6 months of the enforcement of the statutory minimum wage, the research successfully re-interviewed 379 respondents. This research compares the changes in the hourly wage rate, working hours, monthly income, job satisfaction, wage satisfaction and quality of life of the respondents.

The impacts of the statutory minimum wage on the labour market conditions and quality of life of the three vulnerable groups in aggregate are positive rather than negative. Statutory minimum wage induces the most significant positive impacts on the new arrival women, medium positive impacts on the CSSA recipients, and the least positive impacts on the disabled. However, ordinary low-income workers gain more significant improvement in employment than the three vulnerable groups.

In order to improve the quality of life of the vulnerable groups, other concomitant reforms in social policy and social services, including CSSA system as well as employment quota and levy for the disabled, should be implemented to achieve a synergy effect.

CUHK 4023-PPR-09
Restructuring of Hong Kong Manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta: Challenges and Policy Responses
PI: Dr Chun YANG

This study examined the restructuring of Hong Kong manufacturing in the PRD from the perspectives of challenges and opportunities in the post-crisis global economy. Through intensive firm-level survey and in-depth interviews, this study has explored the changing dynamics, market rebalancing, spatial expansion and restructuring strategies at firm level in response to the national and provincial policy initiatives. Despite significant contribution to rapid industrialization over the past three decades, Hong Kong manufacturing firms have been regarded as obstacles in the government-designated industrial upgrading since 2000. The study sheds light on the challenges resulted from the changing business environment and emerging tension among various levels of governments and processing firms. Rather, the study recognizes significant opportunities for Hong Kong, particularly the rising domestic market and emerging consumers in China, in contrast to the shrinking demand in the western advanced markets. The study suggests Hong Kong firms to engage in market reorientation through business and spatial expansion beyond the manufacturing embedded in the PRD. The study further suggests the HKSAR government to establish a specific department to work out suitable industrial policies to help Hong Kong business reposition and leverage in the transformation of development model in China and the PRD in particular.

PolyU 5005-PPR-09
Green practices in Hong Kong's shipping industry - empirical evidence and policy implications
PI: Dr Kee-Hung LAI

The study results provide an understanding of the green initiatives of shipping firms in terms of various stakeholder forces and how they drive GSP adoption in shipping operations. The environmental and productivity outcomes of GSP adoption open new avenues for policy development in the shipping industry. In particular, under what circumstances would shipping firms take green practices as a way to pursue environmental improvement? Do they adopt GSP to satisfy regulatory or shipper requirements, or to defend against competition? Will certain aspects of GSP be more (or less) important under some stakeholder forces than others? The findings provide useful policy insights on making performance gains in productivity while protecting the environment for the shipping industry. The research issues of how and why GSP are associated with superior performance are fundamental for Hong Kong's shipping industry to reach the international norm for environmental protection and sustain its cost competitiveness as an international shipping hub. The study results also provide answers to policy makers regarding the stakeholder forces that can drive shipping firms to adopt green practices, the extent to which these forces affect green shipping operations, and the role of GSP in enabling shipping firms to achieve the dual productivity and environmental performance goals. The findings are helpful references for policy makers to formulate policies to increase environmental awareness in Hong Kong's shipping industry, and to devise informed action plans for developing the shipping industry. The validated measurement of GSP offer the Government and the shipping industry with standard measures for evaluating GSP and developing useful benchmark references for Hong Kong's shipping firms to apply GSP in their businesses.

PolyU 5006-PPR-09
Impacts of climatic warming on high density living in Hong Kong using remote sensing and GIS modelling.
PI: Prof Janet Elizabeth NICHOL

This project provides visual and written information about the impacts of both current and future climate (specifically high temperatures) on the Hong Kong population, with a spatial aspect. Thus the distributions over Hong Kong of areas exceeding and expected to exceed critical temperature thresholds, have been mapped at detailed (street and block) level. Maps are available for both day and night situations, as well as at decadal intervals from 2009 to 2039. The implications are that people living in the (especially) nighttime hot spots would have higher probability of heat-related health problems than others living in cooler areas.and humid summertime environment will facilitate the growth of bacteria and viruses. Since infection by micro organisms is more likely with hot nighttime temperatures in a humid climate, children and the elderly are the groups most affected.

PolyU 5007-PPR-09
Policy of Accessible Public Toilets for Visually Impaired People
PI: Prof Kin Wai Michael SIU

An inclusive society requires that visually impaired people (VIP) have equal access to public toilets. At present, however, VIP in Hong Kong face a number of barriers to public toilet access. The principal objective of the research project discussed herein was to explore the concerns of VIP in accessing public toilets and to identify a policy and practical suggestions for improvement. The case study approach was adopted, and the key research activities were field visits, in-depth interviews and participatory workshops. The key finding is that the government should consider an inclusive public toilet policy for VIP and tackle it on the basis of a three-level ('all-level') framework: a plain-line-point framework. The government, professionals and the general public are required to consider the quality of public toilet provision from the policy, implementation and management angles, as VIP have the same right as everyone else to convenient access to public toilets. The aforementioned three-level framework will facilitate such consideration. In addition to suggesting a well-planned network and the provision of accessible toilet facilities at the city, district and individual building levels, the project results suggest that the best approach to accessible such facilities for VIP is to incorporate a standard toilet cubicle with the BrailleWise tactile guidance system. The experience gleaned during this research also suggests that user participation is a good way to reveal the actual needs of VIP.

HKUST 6001-PPR-09
Occupational Segregation, Anti-Discrimination Policies, & Gender Inequality in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Raymond S K WONG

The level of occupational sex segregation in Hong Kong has increased steadily since 1981, though its overall level is still below those found in developed economies. By investigating how recent changes in women's earnings power, human capital, competing family role constraints, and the availability of domestic helpers are related to their labor market participation, we conclude that women, particularly married ones, today are much more career-oriented. On the one hand, children and spousal income impose less rigid family role constraints. On the other hand, the presence of foreign domestic helper enables more women to substitute domestic work for leisure instead of labor. However, these two contradictory findings are complementary as they highlight married women's desire to exercise greater control of their destiny. In terms of earnings inequality, our analyses are able to locate exactly where gender disparities lie. Although women working in female dominated occupations appear to receive lower pay than those working in other occupations, we discovered that much of that disparity is due to job contents (skill levels and supervisory position) rather than sex composition. Since much of the above changes occurred recently, we suspect that they are due to the recent passage of anti-discrimination legislation.

HKU 7001-PPR-09
Competition and Environmental Sustainability in Hong Kong's Energy Market
PI: Mr Thomas Kin Hon CHENG

This research explores the connection between the introduction of competition and the environmental performance of the energy sector in Hong Kong. These are the two most pressing issues facing the sector in Hong Kong, with the expiration of the current schemes of control in 2018 and the continual air pollution problem in Hong Kong. The hypothesis was that the introduction of competition to the sector may improve its environmental performance. However, this research finds that the introduction of competition is unlikely to result in significant improvement in the environmental performance of the sector, which will probably require direct policy intervention by the government.

The significance of the research lies in the fact that it tackles two of the most pressing issues facing the energy sector in Hong Kong and its value is that it clarifies that improved environmental performance will probably require direct policy intervention by the government.

HKU 7003-PPR-09
A long term evaluation of the clinical and cost effectiveness of the Hong Kong Scoliosis Screening Programme
PI: Dr Daniel Yee Tak FONG

This project steps into an internationally controversial issue of whether school scoliosis screening should be used for early detection of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, a disorder with poorly known cause. After meticulously collected a large representative sample spanning 14 years after the inception of the Hong Kong scoliosis screening programme in 1995, we have confirmed that the programme has been highly effective in identifying patients with significant curves. Also, screened patients who required surgery were operated at a lower spinal curvature than those who were not screened, and thus had increased rate of surgical success with less complication. However, there has been an increased risk of developing significant curves among the Hong Kong adolescents, and hence also the risk of requiring invasive surgery. This has resulted in increasing medical expenses loading onto the healthcare burden to the local government.

This was the first study that assessed the long term impact of a school scoliosis screening programme for 14 years after its implementation by utilising the most appropriate design, the most representatively large sample, and most advanced analytical method. The methodology could be adopted for the assessment of other screening programmes, in order to inform the making of healthcare policy.

HKU 7008-PPR-09
Legal Assistance for Asylum Seekers and Torture Claimants in Hong Kong
PI: Ms Kelley Ann LOPER

In recent judgments, Hong Kong courts have confirmed the government's obligation to ensure high standards of fairness when determining whether to remove individuals who fear serious human rights violations in their countries of origin. Such standards are necessary in light of the gravity of the decision and the potential life and death consequences for the claimant in the event of an incorrect assessment. This study considered a key element of procedural fairness and rule of law: effective access to legal representation. Asylum law is particularly complex and requires a specialist, trained, and committed cohort of advocates. Researchers have collected data on various models of legal representation through literature review and face-to-face interviews with practitioners and decision-makers in four common law jurisdictions with developed asylum procedures. They also interviewed thirty individuals participating in the Hong Kong system - which are still nascent - to better understand gaps that might be informed by comparative experience. The project's findings are particularly timely in light of developments in December 2012 and March 2013 that have significantly altered and expanded the legal landscape governing the protection of refugees. The study's results should have continuing impact in the coming months and years.

HKU 7010-PPR-09
Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Implications for Public Policy in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Richard Mark WALKER

The study and practice of sustainable development (SD) is interdisciplinary. Policy solutions adopted for such complex problems have been based around partnerships, stakeholder engagement and networking. Compared to other localities Hong Kong has moved slowly towards SD policies, and relatively recently introduced policy tools of partnership and stakeholder engagement.

This study examined partnerships for sustainable development in Hong Kong. The project examined how partnership characteristics (e.g. commitment, trust), network behavior (e.g. interactions with key actors) and publicness (the role business, civil society and government) influenced the performance of SD projects. Findings showed that trust contributed towards perceived project performance, as did the network behavior characteristics of private sector and civil society group actors: however, for the latter group network behavior is negatively correlated with project performance.

The implications of these findings are multifaceted and suggest that: (1) government needs to be able to commit further to SD outcomes because projects need clear goals to build trust, (2) to implement the policy tools of consultation and partnerships government capacity has to be built, and (3) the role of civil society groups has to be reconsidered if they are to play a major role in SD projects in Hong Kong.