Enhancing Career Opportunities for Higher Educated Youth with SEN or Disabilities


Youth I.D.E.A.S. 36

Society and Livelihood

Enhancing Career Opportunities for Higher Educated Youth with SEN or Disabilities

27 November, 2018



Under the Education Bureau’s Integrated Education Policy, the term “special educational needs” (SEN) refers to students who have learning problems or disabilities, including specific learning difficulties, intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, physical disability, visual impairment, hearing impairment, speech and language impairments, and mental illness. Under the Hong Kong Rehabilitation Programme Plan, the categories of disability also include all of the types of SEN mentioned above.


Students with SEN may also be known as disabled people once they have left school and entered the workplace. Unfortunately, they face difficulties in employment because of their handicaps, regardless of their higher-education qualifications. According to the Census and Statistics Department, 43,900 disabled people had tertiary-education qualifications in 2013, but only 35% were employed – just half of the 70% employment rate of the overall population with such qualifications. Care-ER, an NGO assisting people with disabilities in employment, also found that only 59% of their respondents had employment, among 206 higher-educated youths with disabilities. Furthermore, some of them were only employed in a position with lower educational requirements.


With the government actively implementing integrated education, the number of SEN students in Hong Kong who are studying in mainstream schools has been rising in recent years, as have more opportunities for them to pursue further study. According to the Education Bureau, in 2017/18 there were 45,360 SEN students studying in mainstream primary and secondary schools, accounting for 8.2% of the total student population. The numbers of students studying in the local post-secondary programmes has also risen, by 50%, from 1,046 to 1,565 in 2017/18. It is expected that the employment needs of SEN students will be rising in the near future.


Education and tertiary qualifications have not been considered to be keys to the door of employment for youths with SEN. Such individuals are still facing different challenges in the workplace and are even being wasted as human resources when they are forced to work in unsuitable positions. Employment could be an opportunity for them to release their potential and interact with society. Therefore, enhancing the career opportunities for higher-educated youths with SEN or disabilities is not only beneficial for them but also bolsters an integrated society.


The Labour Department has launched the “Work Orientation and Placement Scheme” to provide incentives that encourage employers to offer job vacancies to people with disabilities. However, overseas experiences, such as in Japan and Taiwan, have included more aggressive measures to encourage employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Those countries have established a mandatory employment quota system requiring enterprises to employ a certain number or percentage of disabled people.


This study investigated the difficulties encountered in the workplace by SEN youths with tertiary-education qualifications, and it looked at the public views of youths with SEN or disabilities. It is hoped that possible solutions will be highlighted that would help to enhance those individuals’

career opportunities, help them achieve financial independence and foster their integration into the community.


In conducting this research in October 2018, data were collected by conducting a survey of 520 Hong Kong residents, aged 18 and above, case interviews with 20 youths with SEN, and interviews with five experts and academicians.



  1. Youths with SEN or disabilities still face difficulties in employment, regardless of their higher-education qualifications. Because of the rising numbers of such young people, they should be provided with employment support in order to better utilize their potential.
  2. Higher-educated youths with SEN or disabilities are an important human resource in our society. Providing employment support for them could improve their financial independence and integration into society, and in the long run would also relieve the burdens they place on our society.
  3. Barriers faced by higher-educated youths with SEN or disabilities in the workplace are (a) a lack of employment support, (b) negative employer attitudes and (c) poor understanding on the part of the general public.3.1 There is a lack of employment support for higher-educated young people with SEN or disabilities.

    3.2 Employers behave conservatively in hiring people with disabilities.

    3.3 The general public lacks an understanding of people with SEN or disabilities.


  4. Establishment of a mandatory employment quota system for persons with disabilities is controversial in Hong Kong.



  1. Provide multiple internship opportunities.
  2. Improve the employment services.
  3. Recruit more people with disabilities into government departments.
  4. Provide extra subsidies for continuing education.
  5. Strengthen life-planning support for SEN students.
  6. Enhance the public’s understanding of students with disabilities or SEN.