As an important document formulated by the HKSAR Government for the first time to promote youth development, the Youth Development Blueprint (Blueprint) sets the tone, direction, scale and pace for future youth work, striving to be a good confidant and guide for young people.
Alice Mak: First Blueprint to Address Needs of Young People After Listening to Their Voices
Referring to the public engagement work for the Blueprint, Alice Mak, Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs, said that the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau (HYAB), having listened to the voices of Hong Kong youths from different strata and backgrounds, concluded that they generally face four major challenges, including strengthening national identity, global perspective and understanding of the overall development of our country; increasing the room for upward mobility; dealing with stress and mental well-being issues; and opportunities to increase participation in public affairs. “To this end, the Blueprint puts forward over 160 concrete actions and measures conducive to youth development, aiming to inspire, support and embrace youths from different backgrounds.”
Formulate diverse youth policies
Mak said that in line with the various development stages of young people, the Blueprint has specifically organized the measures of the various bureaux into four chapters. Among them, the Exploration Chapter represents transition from the child to the youth stage. Its focus is to drive a more innovative and youth-friendly approach to guide young people in developing their sense of national sentiment from an early age, correctly understanding the country’s history, the Constitution and the Basic Law, and enhancing their sense of national identity, while striving to provide them with quality education and strength career planning to encourage them to explore their interests and aspirations.
Following the resumption of normal cross-border travel, the Government has gradually restarted various Mainland and international exchange and internship schemes. On 17 February, it launched a new round of the “Funding Scheme for Youth Exchange in the Mainland” and the “Funding Scheme for International Youth Exchange” to provide funding for non-governmental organisations to organise Mainland and international exchange projects for local young people.
Aiming at young people who have completed their studies and entered the society, the Hope Chapter provides them with more relevant internship, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to align with Hong Kong’s positioning of developing into the “eight centres” as set out in the “14th Five-Year” Plan. In addition, the Government will re-launch the “Starter Homes Project for Hong Kong Residents” and improve the “Youth Hostel Scheme” (YHS), and has accepted applications for funding via the “Subsidy Scheme for Using Hotels and Guesthouses as Youth Hostels” under the YHS, with the aim of providing about 3,000 additional residential units over five years.
Focus on whole-person development
The Empowerment Chapter is dedicated to fostering the whole-person development of young people. Besides supporting all sectors of society to organise different services and activities, the Government will help young people develop their potential, enhance positive thinking, and develop diverse interests; at the same time, while continuing to pay attention to mental health support for young people, the Government will identify young people in need and provide them with appropriate support at an early stage, as well as supporting non-Chinese speaking youths to integrate into society.
The Contribution Chapter states to launch more channels for young people to participate in public policy discussions and community building, and to set up the Youth Community Contribution Committees and the District Youth Development and Civic Education Committees in 18 districts to give them the opportunity to build their own communities. It also states to establish a new youth network to bring together participants of the HYAB’s youth development programmes so that they can develop their diverse talents and give back to the society, and to launch a youth-based mobile app that provides a one-stop platform for information on youth development projects. In addition, it states to continue promoting youth volunteer service, such as providing local university students with funding to undertake voluntary internships in agencies under the United Nations.
Long-term and continuous promotion of youth work
Mak stressed that the Government will follow six key guiding principles to plan youth work. The first is leading from the top and building strength. “We will enhance the Youth Development Commission chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, and designate a Commissioner for Youth to strengthen central planning and co-ordination of youth work and facilitate cross-bureaux and cross-sector collaboration.”
The second is passing on the spirit of loving our country and Hong Kong and strengthening the sense of national identity by strengthening young people’s sense of identity and belonging to our country and Hong Kong. The third is addressing diversified development needs, i.e., devising appropriate measures targeted for various stages of youth development and providing multi-faceted development opportunities. The fourth is promoting whole-person development, which involves paying attention to young people’s academic and career pursuits, as well as fostering their physical and mental well-being, positive values, family values, and rational thinking skills. The fifth is adopting a positive attitude towards young people, enhancing youth engagement, and strengthening their sense of ownership. The sixth is progressing with the times, i.e., responding to the changing needs of young people in a timely manner.
“The first edition of the Blueprint is just the beginning. We will continue to review and enrich the contents in response to public opinions, and formulate updated editions as appropriate.” In Mak’s view, the Blueprint signifies that the Government will continuously promote long-term youth development and will draw the community together to give multi-faceted support.
Victor Kwok: Concerted Effort and Multi-pronged Approach for Youth Empowerment
Responding to the Blueprint launched by the HKSAR Government earlier, Victor Kwok, Assistant Research Director and Head of Education & Youth of Our Hong Kong Foundation, believes it will bring youth development efforts to a whole new level. He hopes the government can take one step further to create a social environment that offers great opportunities.
Acknowledging the current social trends, Kwok points out that Hong Kong’s youth development policies should incorporate five elements to suit ongoing changes and progress, namely, digital technology, environment protection and sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship, diversity, and mental wellbeing. “Youth policies should focus on on-the-job and in-school training for digital technology talent, and the government must further its investment in green sectors to encourage young people to join the environmental movement and drive sustainable development.”
Consolidating policies and stepping up promotion
Innovation and entrepreneurship are the main impetus for global economic growth. Kwok says at the policy level, a special focus should be on providing optimal support for youths to start businesses in the Greater Bay Area. “Youth development policies should also encourage the younger generation to understand and appreciate different cultures, help them to seek career development through cross-cultural and cross-regional exchange and collaboration. Youth mental wellbeing is not to be overlooked too. In particular, in Hong Kong’s single-structured industrial landscape, young people have limited upward mobility pathways. The government should help them reduce stress and promote all-round wellness.”
Phase one of the Blueprint proposes more than 160 youth support actions and measures. Kwok agrees that it successfully consolidates the government’s previous youth support policies on different fronts. It has outlined the vision and approach for future youth development work, as well as laying groundwork for upcoming youth initiatives and communication with various sectors on youth issues.
Regular review of effectiveness and promoting public awareness
As for whether youth policies and targeted measures will meet their expected goals, Kwok thinks it depends on a number of factors. For example, the government must allocate and rationally deploy adequate resources, review regularly and update promptly as required. The society at large must also work hand in hand to support and further their implementation so as to build confidence among our youths.
To maximize the impact of youth policies, Kwok suggests a multi-pronged approach for the government. Actions should include establishing effective communication channels between various youth organizations and groups; boosting public and private cooperation; and stepping up advocacy and promotion efforts. “One way is to approach youth organizations and groups directly. The second path is utilizing the resources, professional know-how and networks of private companies and organizations to implement Blueprint policies. The third path is to use social media and community group connections to launch promotion efforts, so as to drive public awareness and support for youth development.”
Blueprint as a pacemaker to bring policies into play
Looking ahead to Hong Kong’s vision for youth development policies, Kwok reiterates that introduction of the Blueprint is only the first step towards creating more opportunities for young people in pursuit of sustainability. It is more important to ensure delivery of various policies to achieve targeted results. “The government should use the Blueprint as a pacemaker for systematic and long-term youth efforts. To realize this goal, timely completion of set performance indicators is a priority. It would ensure effective policy execution and inform the public of the government’s youth programmes.”
He hopes that by taking forward the Blueprint, Hong Kong will give its youths the space and enthusiasm for pursuing their dreams, empowering them to realize their full potentials. With deeper engagement in and understanding of our country, young people will have greater cultural confidence and sense of identity. Their global view and competitiveness will also be enhanced to adapt to new challenges.