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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Lifeguards worked at only 18 of Hong Kong’s 42 beaches over weekend

Lifeguards worked at only 18 of Hong Kong’s 42 beaches over weekend

Of city’s 42 public beaches 21 remained open without lifeguards and three have been temporarily closed.

Only 18 of Hong Kong’s 42 public beaches had lifeguards on duty last weekend because of a severe labour shortage, a union has said, with swimmers potentially at risk as most locations remain open.

Unattractive salaries and keen competition from private housing complexes caused the lack of manpower, lifeguard union representatives said. They urged authorities to become more competitive in attracting staff.

In response to Post inquiries, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said seasonal lifeguards were still being recruited. The department expected services at the remaining beaches to “gradually” return.

Among the 18 locations with life-saving services, 13 were in the New Territories, while five were on Hong Kong Island, including Repulse Bay and Stanley beaches.

Three beaches have been closed because of a shortage of lifeguards.


The other 21 beaches remained open without lifeguards, with the department advising residents not to swim if nobody is on duty.

Three beaches – Hair Pin, Shek O Back (Rocky Bay) and Gemini – have been temporarily closed.

The absence of services was because of a severe labour shortage, said Nick Wu Kai-wing, a Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guard’s Union spokesman.

He said in addition to about 1,200 permanent staff, the government needed some 800 seasonal workers to maintain services each year, but Wu estimated fewer than 200 of them were currently on the roster.

Comparatively, authorities were “about 500 to 600 people short in seasonal staff” last year but still managed to open 20 beaches.

Wu said many of the lifeguards had chosen to work in private clubhouses in luxury housing estates which offered as much as HK$120 ($15) per hour.

“Some of these lifeguards work 15-hour shifts, meaning they can earn more than HK$35,000 a month,” he said.

By comparison, public lifeguards are categorised as artisans within the civil service hierarchy, with a starting salary of HK$17,675 per month and a maximum of $24,070, according to the government pay scale.

“Youngsters hoping to join the industry should be able to see good prospects and a pay scale that makes sense,” Wu added, pointing out that entry-level staffers make even less than seasonal lifeguards, who are offered at least HK$20,800 per month.

The spokesman also said qualifications and tests should be done internally, instead of being “outsourced” to The Hong Kong Life Saving Society. Currently, applicants must obtain a bronze medallion and pay to complete a two-month course for a Pool or Beach Lifeguard Award – to be renewed every three years.

The department said several measures had been implemented to attract or retain seasonal staff, including raising the salary cap this year to HK$24,500 per month and offering contract gratuities for returning or long-serving workers.

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