The roles played by unions in the provision of continuing education in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
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This thesis develops the argument that unions in Hong Kong have an important role to play in narrowing the gap between employees’ educational needs and the provision of courses. The thesis demonstrates that the special history and the unique features of Hong Kong unions produced opportunities for them to offer education services to employees. The study confirms that the unions’ education services meet employees’ needs for Continuing Education. Hong Kong unions’ provision of educational services is the result of their need to differentiate themselves from other unions in a competitive environment as well as of union members demanding those services in the absence of the Hong Kong Government providing them. The unions’ lack of a legal right to engage in collective bargaining led to the fragmentation of the union movement, with different unions guided by different ideals, and in turn to unions having to provide a range of services, including education services, to attract members and to consolidate their power. In addition, union members demanded that the unions provide educational services since the Hong Kong Government (both before and after 1997, when China assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong) failed to develop proper Continuing Education policies, which in turn led to employees getting the opportunity to study in union training centres. A survey of the demand for Continuing Education by HKU SPACE (Hong Kong University, School of Professional and Continuing Education, 2001) shows that 8% of participants in Continuing Education in Hong Kong studied with the biggest union group, the FTU. This demonstrates that the unions play an important role in the provision of Continuing Education. The research demonstrates that the unique background of Hong Kong unions, their flexible education arrangements and low course fees, and the close relationship between union members and unions, motivate employees to study and help them overcome barriers to study. Unions are not only concerned with employees’ day-to-day work-related knowledge but also with “holistic” life and health issues. The ideal of regarding Continuing Education as a labour right supports the unions’ policy to invest their resources in helping employees to study. The thesis argues that Hong Kong unions have an important role to play in narrowing the gap between employees’ educational needs and the actual provision of courses. The thesis demonstrates that the special history and the unique features of Hong Kong unions produced opportunities for unions to offer education services to employees. The study confirms that the unions’ education services meet employees’ needs for Continuing Education. Seven recommendations are made which are intended to assist unions in narrowing the gap between the educational needs of employees and the provision of education services in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
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