The press conference held by the HKGCSE on 2/3/2020 was hosted by the Chairman, Mr. Andy Ng and the external Vice Chairman, Mr. Chung Wai Shing. The survey results regarding the effects of COVID-19 on the operations of social enterprises in Hong Kong were released at the conference.
The results of the survey we conducted in late February 2020 showed that most social enterprises had negative views in the future business environment. The survey respondents included 214 social enterprises, which was around 30% of all social enterprises in Hong Kong. The diversity of businesses of our responding social enterprises was large, including retail (30%), catering (20%), education and training, healthcare and the environmental protection industry (50%).
Under the COVID-19 epidemic, there was an obvious decrease in the revenues of social enterprises. Over half of the social enterprises reported a decrease in revenues of over 50% in January and February 2020 compared to January and February 2019, nearly 20% of them had no income, with the biggest impacts on social enterprises in the education and training aspect. Under the current economic environment, over 70% of the social enterprises had very negative views regarding their sales in 2020.
Social enterprises pointed out that the epidemic had impacts on both their sales and operation, including the decrease in the number of customers (77.1%), cancellation of work and services (74.3%), decrease in consumer desire (68.2%) and the decrease in business hours. To face the current circumstances, 40% of the social enterprises reported that their cash flow could only support their operation in fewer than 6 months, with organic products and environmental protection (66.7%), healthcare (64.3%), catering (62.5%) and educational and training industries at the highest risks. In order to survive, social enterprises reduced their business hours (61.2%), slowed down their expansion of businesses (58.4%), reduced working hours of employees (45.3%), downsized manpower (28%) or requested unpaid leave (15%). If the pandemic continues, 20% of the social enterprises stated the possibility of their closure as 50% of above, 25% of them stated as 30-50%. It was noteworthy that almost 25% of the social enterprises have temporarily or permanently closed, mostly in the catering, services, organic products and environmental protection sectors.
With regards to the above situations, social enterprises hope that the government could provide special measures to assist them in overcoming the circumstances under the current crisis, so we had the below suggestions for the government.
1. Provide one-off subsidy of $80,000 per project for social enterprises that are under operation and have received subsidies from the “Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprise” and “Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership” Programmes as well as social venture projects that are managed by the HKCSS and have received subsidies from the social venture fund.
2. Reduce half of the rent for the coming half year for social enterprises that are located in governmental properties. It is also suggested that the government should provide rent subsidies for social enterprises that are located in private properties.
3. Provide special subsidies for social enterprises according to the number of disabled employees.
4. Provide free masks, hand sanitizers for social enterprises according to the number of employees.
5. Assist private social enterprises to apply for the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme.
6. Allow social enterprises to enjoy supporting measures for SMEs.