Public Policy Research - Layman summaries of projects funded in 2010/2011

CityU 1011-PPR-10
An investigation of daylight linked lighting controls and the implications to building energy and environment policies
PI: Dr Hin Wa Danny LI

Daylighting is an effective and sustainable development strategy for enhancing visual comfort, energy-efficiency and green developments. People like to have good natural lighting in their living and working environments. In subtropical Hong Kong, most of the electricity is used for creating a thermally and visually comfortable built-environment through air-conditioning and electric lighting representing three quarters of energy consumption in commercial buildings. Proper daylighting schemes can help reduce the electrical demand and improve vision efficiency. The energy savings derived through the use of daylighting not only facilitate the sparing use of electric lighting and reduce peak electrical demand, but also reduce cooling loads and offer the potential for smaller air-conditioning plants to be built. The availability of more comprehensive solar radiation and daylight illuminance databases would be invaluable to the determination of building envelope cooling load and evaluation of daylighting designs. The project established extensive solar radiation and daylight illuminance databases via systematic measurements and prediction models, and demonstrated the significance of including daylighting considerations in building designs. The findings are useful to architects and building engineers to conduct building-facade and lighting designs. More importantly, policy makers can build up more appropriate sustainable policies for buildings.

CityU 1015-PPR-10
Enhancing Hong Kong SMEs' Competitiveness via Open Information Services
PI: Prof Jianliang ZHAO

In this research, we investigated SMEs' use of information systems available on Websites rather than installed on their own servers. In recent years, the use of such online information services is becoming popular. We want to understand the pros and cons of this approach and develop relevant policies to help Hong Kong SMEs adopt this new information management method. We found that SMEs generally have volatile business processes. They will need the online information services to be highly customizable. We identified some patterns in SMEs' business processes, some of which improve their operation efficiency and thus should be emphasized in online information services. Through interviews and surveys, we found that SMEs are concerned about internet stability, security, and customization, which should be protected by some legal instruments, such as promises, contracts, regulations, and guarantees. Thus, from a policy perspective, Hong Kong government should offer more protections of SMEs, provide incentives, and help service providers understand the different requirements of individual SMEs to better help SMEs take advantage of online information services. Such government policies on online information services will help improve Hong Kong SMEs' standard of management and increase their competitive advantage in international business.

HKBU 2004-PPR-10
Community Interpreting in Hong Kong
PI: Dr Ester Sin-man LEUNG

This research focused on the interpreting services provided for people who would otherwise have difficulty in accessing the public services to meet the basic needs of their living, such as their health, social welfare and concerns with justices. This project has produced research-informed training courses to train interpreters to provide ethical and quality interpreting services to the community. Both the service providers and users are now more aware of the problems and needs of each other when using the interpreting services.

LU 3001-PPR-10
Cross-Sectoral Synergy in Cultural-creative SMEs: Creativity, talents and entrepreneurship
PI: Prof Stephen Ching Kiu CHAN

As a global city, Hong Kong's economic structure has changed, shifting its base to service economy. The Government wants to develop its Cultural-creative Industries (CI), covering activities in various domains (performing arts, design, advertising, publishing) and with different organizational forms/scales (freelancer, NGO, multinational corporate). Driven by talents and entrepreneurship, Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs) are the engine of HK economic growth. As they are crucial to the overall growth of CI, this project examines the heterogeneity, fluidity and dynamics of creativity, and investigates the relevant talents through the case study of three local SMEs at various stages of development.

While creative work often takes place at higher levels of the value chain, we map the ecology of CI with a special attention on micro-level operations. This is crucial as cultural entrepreneurship entails the nuances, intricacies and organic evolution in SME creative practices. Our research provides analyses for understanding better their positioning in the value chain and their needs for cross-sector clustering. Focusing on the role of creativity, talents and entrepreneurship, the study identifies synergy and crossover as crucial factors in the innovation of service/product forms, and raises longer-term questions and tasks for practitioners and policy-makers alike.

CUHK 4004-PPR-10
The Public Health Impacts of the Policy Decision to Reduce Alcohol Tax in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Sian Meryl GRIFFITHS

In an effort to promote Hong Kong as a global wine hub, the government eliminated duties on wine and beer in 2008. Changes in alcohol consumption patterns were examined by two anonymous, cross-sectional telephone surveys carried out in 2011 (n = 4800) and 2012 (n = 1001). These data were compared with those of a 2006 (n = 9896) baseline survey conducted before the excise tax elimination. The combined influences of eliminating duty on alcohol and increased promotion of wine sales coincided with an increase in numbers of those drinking alcohol. While the full impact of the duty elimination may well have been moderated by the trade profit margin and consequent minimal price drop for beer and modest price drop in foreign style wine, we found a general trend of heavier consumption, more people drinking and greater risk to some disadvantaged groups. Those with lower educational achievement and the unemployed have higher likelihood of binge drinking. Nonetheless the immediate harms of alcohol consumption such as increased drink driving have not been observed. In order to prevent the potential harm from cheaper alcohol, cross government action is needed in addition to implementation of the Department of Health's alcohol harm reduction strategy.

CUHK 4012-PPR-10
Hong Kong or Singapore? Strategic Location Choice of Chinese Multinational Firms' Asia Regional Headquarters
PI: Prof Xufei MA

This project examines the establishment and strategic location choice of Chinese firms' Asian regional headquarters. The findings of this project have a set of important implications. First, our findings clearly show the changing role of Hong Kong from being Chinese firms' trading platform to investment springboard, which highlights the importance of building Hong Kong as Chinese firms' Asian regional headquarters. Second, we suggest that Hong Kong government focus on their policy to attract younger firms, non-state-owned enterprises, or firms from coastal areas to establish their Asian regional headquarters. Third, although Hong Kong is still the primary location choice for Chinese firms' Asian regional headquarters, the Hong Kong government needs to simultaneously consider both the economic integration between China and Hong Kong and that between Asia and Hong Kong. Fourth, while going global is the mantra of Chinese firms' strategy, we suggest that their Asian regionalization would be these firms' first step toward globalization.

Finally, while the environment of Chinese firms' home base is critical to their internationalization trajectory, they should also make full use of the unique role played by Hong Kong, given its locational, institutional, cultural, political, economical, historical, and linguistic proximity to mainland China.

PolyU 5002-PPR-10
Evaluating the social, economical, cultural and heritage impacts of the "Revitalising Historic Buildings through Partnership Scheme" in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Albert Ping-chuen CHAN

1. Findings of our research indicate that (a) in general the respondents expressed a positive evaluation to the overall score of the NKM project; (b) a positive correlation exists between the level of involvement and the evaluation of the project's impact scores; (c) respondents with higher education levels tended to evaluate the project outcomes less favorably; but (d) their evaluation would be more favorable if their level of involvement with the revitalized project increases.

2. Based on the above findings, it is recommended that more functions/activities should be organized to engage the local community to the revitalized project. Various measures such as organizing more guided tours, free art exhibitions, and short-term arts and design courses at concessionary fees may help enhance the level of involvement. In addition, continuous efforts should be put to publicize the revitalized projects and educate the general public in appreciating the social, cultural and heritage values of the historic buildings.

3. We believe that with the successful implementation of the revitalization scheme, there will be an increase of job and business opportunities.

PolyU 5015-PPR-10
Green apparel merchandising and its policy implications for Hong Kong's trade development
PI: Dr Christina Wing-Yan WONG

The study findings provides an understanding of the environmental efforts of apparel trading firms in terms of the practices they have taken in greening the processes at the various stages of a supply chain. The impact of GAMP on business performance provides an understanding of the importance of GAMP, providing insights to policy development on how GAMP practices may contribute to environmental and economic development of Hong Kong. The understanding of the roles of stakeholders in facilitating trading firms to recover products also provide policy implications to develop policy to enable collaboration between trading firms and their respective stakeholders to implement such GAMP. The findings provide a useful reference for policy makers to formulate policies to reduce environmental of apparel traded via Hong Kong apparel trading firms, affirming Hong Kong's position as an international trade center.

HKUST 6002-PPR-10
Tracking Knowledge-Transfer from Universities to Society in Hong Kong's Innovation System
PI: Prof Nau Bahar SHARIF

In recent years, knowledge transfer is increasingly perceived to be a "Third Mission" of universities beyond teaching and research. This research seeks to develop a system of indicators that is generally applicable for measuring knowledge transfer between the university sector and the wider society in Hong Kong. After analyzing the feedback from our 154 respondents, 39 indicators are identified and five policy recommendations are derived. In future policy making on knowledge transfer, it is recommended that (i) the vision, mission and policies of knowledge transfer should be articulated more clearly among faculty members and administration of universities; (ii) if knowledge transfer is to be effectively promoted, adequate incentives should be provided to faculty members so as to sustain their commitment; (iii) there is a need to enhance the various bridging platforms between universities and other entities so as to facilitate the development of linkages and relationships building; (iv) there exists considerable variations on the knowledge transfer channels among faculty members from different academic disciplines; and (v) when knowledge transfer involves academics as well as stakeholders from diverse background, it is necessary to pay heed to the differences in culture as well as background knowledge of the various stakeholders.

HKUST 6003-PPR-10
Private-Public Joint Ventures in Infrastructure Projects
PI: Prof Susheng WANG

It provides guidance on public-private joint ventures. The project indicates how good the popular contract form is and provides reasons for this form of contract to achieve its objectives.

HKUST 6004-PPR-10
Developing comprehensive performance-based road pavement management
PI: Prof Xueqing ZHANG

This research aims to develop a framework and its corresponding strategies and mathematical models for performance-based pavement management in a road network. Performance-based pavement management will allow a road authority to effectively make short and long term pavement management plans and set and justify budgets efficiently, fairly and in accordance with agreed priorities. Specifically, the performance-based approach improves the ability to undertake effective long-term planning for budgeting and works purposes, which in turn facilitates the improved use of resources for maintaining the road network. The development of explicit levels of service for assets on the road network creates a clear and public set of targets for maintenance of the network, while collection and careful consideration of data regarding asset condition allows the road authority to gauge progress towards targets, and plan accordingly. The performance monitoring allows the road authority to evaluate and improve efficiency continuously. Evaluation of the output of capital schemes also allows more accurate measurement of the increase in value of the network gained through capital investment.

HKU 7001-PPR-10
Promoting Economic Integrity through Institutional Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Law and Policy Perspective
PI: Dr Shahla ALI

Nearly all major global financial centres have developed systems of consumer financial dispute resolution. Such systems aim to assist parties to resolve a growing number of monetary disputes with financial institutions. How governments and self-regulatory organizations design and administer financial dispute resolution mechanisms in the context of increasingly turbulent financial markets is a new area for research and practice. This research presents comparative empirical findings about the development and design of these mechanisms in East Asia, North America and Europe. Using a comparative methodology and drawing on empirical findings from a multi-jurisdictional survey, the research examines the emergence of global principles that influence the design of financial dispute resolution models, considers the structural variations between the ombuds and arbitration systems and offers practical proposals for reform.

HKU 7002-PPR-10
A longitudinal study on intimate partner violence against Chinese pregnant women and child abuse in Hong Kong
PI: Dr Edward Ko Ling CHAN

This study was the first longitudinal study on child abuse and neglect (CAN) and intimate partner violence (IPV) against Chinese pregnant women in Hong Kong. The objectives of the study were to test whether IPV against a mother during her pregnancy was a risk factor for child abuse, and to examine family and perpetrator-related risk factors associating with child abuse. Preliminary findings showed that IPV experienced by participants during pregnancy was associated with greater odds of both lifetime and preceding-year child physical maltreatment. Results of the regression analyses also provided supportive evidence for the mediation effect of recent IPV victimization on the relationship between IPV during pregnancy and recent CAN against children.

Results of this study will have significant policy and practice implications. By providing evidence to show the association between IPV and child abuse, this study will raise the awareness of policy makers, social services practitioners and the public about the impact of IPV on women and on maltreatment in the next generation. This underscores the importance of screening pregnant women for IPV in order to prevent CAN at an early stage. Home visitations are suggested to break the cycle of violence within a nuclear family.

HKU 7004-PPR-10
Managing the Transition towards a Low-carbon Economy: Stakeholder Engagement for Technological Environmental Innovation Decision-making in Hong Kong
PI: Prof Victor On Kwok LI

In response to climate change, the development of Technological Environmental Innovation (TEI), such as renewable energy technologies, and low-carbon transport technologies, are essential to the transition towards a low-carbon society. Such fundamental changes require significant investment, technological expertise, and social and infrastructural support at different levels. Innovative policy measures and inputs from various social sectors are critical to the success of the public policy. Unfortunately, Hong Kong's public policy-making is dominated by government-led top down control style. Stakeholders' participation and contribution in policy design and implementation has often been ignored.

This research investigates the transitional management approach for promoting sustainable energy and transport in Hong Kong. This is achieved by engaging stakeholders and carefully managing a series of small and incremental steps of technological transition. Through collective learning and networking among stakeholders, policy-makers can better understand the practical problems and utilize the problem-solving capabilities of stakeholders.

The significance is the development of a theoretical model of transitional management that is applicable to not only sustainable energy and transport but also potentially other public policy areas. Based on the local socio-political factors, we have made recommendations of institutional reform to encourage stakeholder engagement at different levels and domains.

HKU 7008-PPR-10
Longevity increase, retirement saving and retirement age: Economic analyses and policy implications
PI: Dr Sau-him P. LAU

Average retirement age in industrial countries has experienced a decrease in the last century, despite a steady and significant increase in life expectancy. The main objective of this project is to understand the impact of mortality changes on retirement age and saving.

In this project, my co-authors and I used different models to study these questions. First, Paper 2 uses a life-cycle model to show that mortality reductions at older ages delay retirement unambiguously, but that mortality reductions at younger ages may lead to earlier retirement. Second, Paper 1 studies the impacts of mortality decline on saving and retirement choices in an overlapping-generations model with realistic demographic assumptions. When life expectancy increases by one year, people delay retirement by about four months. As a result, the proportion of lifetime spent on working decreases, and people save more for post-retirement years.

Besides providing answers to the above questions, the papers also make methodological contributions by using the modified Boucekkine et al. (2002) survival function which gives a convenient one-to-one correspondence between longevity improvement and a change in the survival parameter (Paper 1), and using the Volterra derivative for a functional (Paper 2).

HKU 7014-PPR-10
Segregation or Sorting? The Causes and Consequences of Hong Kong's Socio-Spatial Structure
PI: Dr Paavo Herbert MONKKONEN

People's residential location affects them in a number of ways. This research has begun a line of study into where people of different income groups live in relation to each other, and why this matters.

HKU 7023-PPR-10
A Study on Population Health and Health Economicsfor Hong Kong SAR
PI: Prof Paul S. F. YIP

This provides the empirical evidence of the disease burden to the Hong Kong health system. In view of the rapid ageing, the present health care delivery system would no longer be sustainable. It is also a time to think about the share of the disease burden between the public and private service.

Some of the major causes of hospitalization, for example, Genitourinary system and neoplasm could be related to the stressful lifestyle in Hong Kong. a public health campaign and an awareness program might be needed for prevention.

There is also significant spatial difference in morbidity and it is important to have a better understanding what underpin the difference and how they can be rectified and improved. It also calls for allocation of resources should reflect the severity of problem experienced in different districts.

HKU 7025-PPR-10
Educational Inequality and ICT Use in Schools: Bridging the Digital Divide
PI: Dr Hoi Kau YUEN

We surveyed 826 secondary two students from 36 schools, and found that over 65% of the students spent less than half of their time on computer for learning. Around 70% used computers frequently for social networking purposes. Less than 5% of the respondents said they used computers to discuss academic issues with teachers. Results indicate significant gender as well as socioeconomic effects on students' home ICT use factors (which include access and use, home ICT usage, and perceived parenting strategies) and outcome variables (which include students' academic attainment, ICT-related problematic behavior, and attitude towards ICT). Findings also indicate significant relationship between students' home ICT use factors and outcome variables. There has been a great improvement in school and home access to ICT in Hong Kong since the inception of the first five-year strategy of ICT in education in 1998. However, as this study shows, SES and gender differences in students' school and home ICT access and use still occur. The results of this study suggest that the implementation of ICT in education needs to be reframed to address the issues of the digital divide in education.

HKIEd 8012-PPR-10
An innovative methodology for data with a hierarchical structure and its applications and implications for policy-formulation
PI: Prof Wen Chung WANG

Many latent traits have a hierarchical structure. In addition, many large-scale surveys use stratified sampling. It has been shown that failing to account for hieratical structure in latent traits or multilevel data structure leads to biased results and misleading conclusions. In recent years, researchers begin to explore advanced statistical modeling for hierarchical latent traits or multilevel data structure. This project is significant because it creates a general framework that integrates item response theory, higher-order factor analysis, and multilevel analysis. Such a general framework not only includes many existing models as submodels but also enables the creation of new models. To increase the applicability of the general framework, empirical examples are provided and algorithms of computerized adaptive testing are developed. Practitioners are provided with a better technique for the analysis of hierarchical latent traits and multilevel data. More importantly, this project creates a new research line, such as further model generation, technical issues in computerized adaptive testing, and assessment of model invariance.

HKIEd 8013-PPR-10
A Territory-wide Study on the Impact of the Voucher Scheme on Parents' Choice of Early Childhood Education Services
PI: Dr Gail Wai-kwan YUEN

The Hong Kong SAR Government introduced the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme in 2007, with a vision to ensure access to affordable, quality education by all eligible children. Operating in a fully privatized sector, the voucher scheme is a demand-side policy which provides a direct subsidy to parents. This study aimed at investigating parents' choice of services in the market context and using this baseline understanding to examine the policy effects. Data were collected from a random sample of over 1,400 parents through questionnaires (initial and follow-up) and focus groups. The results revealed that socio-economic status contributed significantly to the differences in parents' choice practices and patterns, as well as the effects of the voucher scheme. Education markets generally work to the advantage of those with more resources, as is the case in Hong Kong. While the overall policy effects were moderate, the significant role of socio-economic status in parents' access to affordable, quality education has brought to light the equity issue that the market approach often fails to address. An overwhelming number of parents recommended universal early childhood education. The new empirical evidence generated by this study has important implications for the government's roles in financing and developing the sector.