HK’s welfare chief contemplates central database on city’s one million under-18s

HK’s welfare chief contemplates central database on city’s one million under-18s

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong says compiling figures could help policymaking and setting priorities for child policy

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Information about children are kept by separate government bodies.
Photo: K. Y. Cheng/SCMP

Hong Kong’s welfare chief wants to make a central database on the city’s around one million under-18s. It would pull together child-related statistics, existing or new, across departments such as Immigration, Education, Student Finance, and Health.

The database would include information such as the details on children’s birth certificates and identity cards, as well as information about their schools, health, and family finances.

It would be accessible to different government departments, and is intended to help policymakers and NGOs by letting them cross-reference the data.

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“In principle, compiling figures could help setting priorities for child policy,” Law Chi-kwong, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, wrote on his blog on Sunday. However, he warned that the task’s scale and complexity could bring challenges.

He recalled Britain’s attempt in 2003 to push for a database on children, called ContactPoint. It was eventually shelved because of privacy concerns and worries from the public about government surveillance on children and their families.

The government-appointed Commission on Children needs to assign a consultant in the third quarter of this year to conduct an 18-month study on integrating figures held by different departments.

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As a result, the database would only be available after the study, meaning in 2021 at the earliest.

Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary of pressure group the Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights, said having the relevant numbers would be a first step to understanding children’s needs, but the numbers were often kept by separate government bodies or not documented.

She cited the example of the Drug Advisory Committee, which keeps breakdowns of drug users by age, drugs of choice and home district – but no one keeps track of whether or not they have children.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Database on U18s?

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