Hong Kong’s third-richest family is hoping to play a bigger role in supporting underprivileged and impoverished women in Hong Kong and improve their living standards amid an unprecedented recession.
The Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation donates about HK$100 million annually on services towards such causes in the city and mainland China, as a way of giving back to society, chairman Peter Cheng Kar-shing said. The family built its fortunes from the jewellery business founded by its late patriarch Cheng Yu-tung, who passed away at 91 in 2016.
“Women at grass roots level who want to enter the labour market have to overcome obstacles such as childcare and lack of employment information,” Cheng said in an interview. “We can provide support services, allowing them to go back into the job market so that they do not need to take the government’s social security help.”
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The number of women receiving Hong Kong government’s social-welfare benefits stood at 711,130 at the end of 2019, almost a tenth of the city’s population, according to government statistics. They have increased from 639,554 in 2016 and 588,190 in 2011.
Women made up 54 per cent of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population at the end of 2019. While the number of unemployed women fell to 45,800 from 59,000 in 2016, the trend may be at risk of slippage as the city’s economy contracted for a fourth straight quarter through June this year.
The foundation’s first initiative for the group was in 2018, when it launched the “Heart Linkage” family support fund in Sham Shui Po with a number of non-profit organisations.
The project provides financial support and employment counselling services to help them tackle childcare needs, longer working hours and falling affordability. It has so far served 171 families with HK$1.8 million in aid.
Cheng said the services will be extended to others at the grass roots in residential neighbourhoods such as Tuen Mun, when the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.
“We are not talking about a lot of money,” said Cheng, who is hoping to create opportunities and send positive energy in the city troubled by months of social unrest and economic gloom. “The amount is flexible, we can certainly give out more.”
Together with other non-profit organisations, the Chow Tai Fook foundation also provides education and training and mental wellness support, Cheng said
The late patriarch built his fortunes from selling gold and diamonds to women when he arrived in Hong Kong via Macau in the 1940s from Shunde in Guangdong province, in what has become Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, the world’s second-largest jewellery maker by market value after Tiffany’s.
The tycoon later made it big in property development under New World Development. Forbes ranks the Cheng family’s net worth at about US$20.7 billion, the third largest in the city.
The family commissioned and published a biography on the patriarch entitled Cheng Yu Tung: A lifetime of diligence, integrity and dedication , which went on sale in June.
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