A Youth Policy for Hong Kong - Why, and why now?

As Chairman of the Commission on Youth (CoY), I have had the privilege of exchanging views with young people, educators, social workers and other stakeholders at 420 occassions during my two-year term. People often ask me, what is the key issue facing young people in Hong Kong nowadays? There is no easy answer. To some, education and jobs are the most critical, but to others, having space for civic participation is equally, if not more, important. You can get to know some of our youth here.

Because each young person is fighting his/her own battle, our support for them needs to be more comprehensive and thorough, and needs to go beyond short-term, alleviating measures. Yet in Hong Kong, measures pertaining to youth (what I call “youth policies”) have historically been the responsibility of various governmental departments and non-governmental actors. There has never been a central, long-term guiding principle for youth development. The 1980s saw an attempt to introduce a “youth policy” to consolidate efforts and offer an over-arching long-term vision. But it did not come to fruition. You can read more about Hong Kong’s history here .

Our youth need our best support in transitioning to adulthood. What they need is a unified, long-term vision and a clear narrative for youth development. What they need is a youth policy.

Having a youth policy is significant for several reasons.

First, it shows the young what they can expect from the government, and makes visible the government’s commitment to youth development. Second, it introduces a “Youth Perspective”, so that all actors can consider their action’s impact on youth, which helps to prevent duplication of efforts and maximise the impact of youth support measures. Third, such a policy provides a basis for impact assessment and is a tool for identifying best practices and knowledge gaps.

A youth policy is not a novel idea; many countries have one.

Independent think tank Youth Policy Labs’ survey in 2014 found 62 per cent of nations worldwide have a national youth policy. For instance, the United Kingdom’s Positive for Youth aids transition to adulthood through fostering supportive relationships, encouraging strong ambitions and providing opportunities. The National Strategy for Young Australians articulates a vision for all young people to grow up safe, healthy, happy, and resilient. New Zealand’s Youth Investment Strategy 2016 aims to provide opportunities that enable young people to acquire the skills and confidence they need to contribute to the growth of the country. My team spent much of last year learning about these overseas experiences, and you can find a recap here .

2017 is an exciting year for Hong Kong’s youth development.

In the Policy Address 2017, the CoY was asked to put forward proposals for a youth development policy. Now is the time for our society to think and talk about what our youth needs and how we can do better to support them.