Hong Kong's Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, visited Dublin on 2-7 July 2018 with a delegation including Director of Social Welfare, Ms Carol Yip, to attend the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development 2018.
Jointly organised by the International Federation of Social Workers, International Association of Schools of Social Work and International Council on Social Welfare, the theme of the conference was Environmental and Community Sustainability: Human Solutions in Evolving Societies. On the sidelines of the world conference, Dr Law addressed a luncheon co-hosted by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) to speak with social work personnel from around the world on Hong Kong's promotion of gerontechnology.
While in Dublin, Dr Law and Ms Yip met with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection of Ireland, Ms Regina Doherty, and discussed the employment policies and social welfare systems of both places. They exchanged views on retirement protection policies in an ageing society. Dr Law was briefed on the development of a defined contribution system to make the retirement protection system more sustainable. Issues related to challenges in labour supply and demand caused by ageing population and technology, particularly artificial intelligence, were also discussed. The Irish government officials shared their experience on the extension of the retirement age, which is currently 66, and will be gradually increased to 68 by 2028. They noted that the average life expectancy in Ireland is about 81.5, slightly lower than that in Hong Kong, which is about 84. The provision of support for people with disabilities in employment was also discussed.
Dr Law and Ms Yip, along with representatives of the HKCSS, visited elderly care and dementia care services and institutions to learn about the latest developments of gerontechnology, as well as to tap overseas experience on the labour force's preparedness for artificial intelligence.
They visited the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, meeting with its Chief Executive, Mr Pat McLoughlin. The society works with day care centres, home care services, carer support groups and respite centres to provide dementia-specific care for elderly persons with dementia and support for their families. They also toured facilities in an elderly centre for dementia patients.
They also visited Mercer's Institute for Successful Ageing, a research facility on gerontology. Located in St. James's Hospital in Dublin, a university teaching hospital, the institute provides clinical care to the elderly and conducts research on challenges of ageing.
They visited the Louth County Council to learn from its Chairman, Mr Liam Reilly, about its age-friendly programme which is the first of its kind in Ireland. They were briefed on how elderly-friendly initiatives were integrated into community planning, such as outdoor space, transportation, housing, employment and health services.
They toured Great Northern Haven, a smart housing demonstration project in NetwellCASALA, which is a research centre on ageing in place established in a joint venture between a local institute and the government. The Director of NetwellCASALA, Mr Rodd Bond, briefed them on the use of technologies for the self-management of chronic patients in home care settings.
Dr Law took the opportunity to have dinner with some Hong Kong youths who have travelled to Dublin through participating in the Hong Kong/Ireland Working Holiday Scheme. He said he was pleased to hear them discuss their short-term employment and travel experiences in Ireland.