Self-reliant but still need help
According to the HKCSS-HSBC Social Enterprise Business Centre - a venture jointly funded by the Hong Kong Council of Social Services and HSBC - the number of social enterprises (SEs) in Hong Kong rose from 222 in 2008 to 406 in 2013. Of the latest total, 60 per cent are owned and run by non-governmental organisations.
In 2006, the Home Affairs Department set up the Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership Programme. The scheme provides seed grants for eligible non-profit-making organisations to set up SEs in order to create jobs for the socially disadvantaged. It has approved grants of around HK$150 million for 136 SE projects since its launch. When all 136 are running - 16 have yet to start operations - a total of 2,300 jobs will have been created by the programme.
However, Chua Hoi-wai, business director of policy advocacy and international networks at HKCSS, says that government financial subsidies are not enough. He says around 10 per cent of SEs are forced to close down or merge with other enterprises every year because of financial difficulties. Chua says the government should also consider giving actual assistance, for example by inviting the business community to teach SEs how to run a business or by providing rent reductions.