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Saturday, Dec 09, 2023

Minimum wage lift for 87,000

Minimum wage lift for 87,000

Up to 87,000 workers will benefit from the rise of the minimum wage to HK$40 on May 1 from its present HK$37.50 level after a four-year wage freeze ends, the Minimum Wage Commission said.
That came after the Executive Council yesterday adopted the commission's recommendation for the rise - which represents an increase of 6.7 percent.

A bill will be gazetted on Friday and tabled to the Legislative Council on January 18. The revised minimum wage will come into force on May 1.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han said the new minimum wage "will be conducive to the overall interest and development of Hong Kong."

"The recommendation of the [commission] has struck an appropriate balance between the objectives of forestalling excessively low wages and minimizing the loss of low-paid jobs, while giving due regard to sustaining Hong Kong's economic growth and competitiveness," he said.

Commission chairwoman Priscilla Wong Pui-sze said the increase was slightly higher than inflation over the past four years, and will benefit around 46,000 to 87,000 workers in sectors such as cleaners, property management and retail.

"It is a good thing that fewer people are earning the minimum wage and are benefiting from the rise because we don't want to see many Hongkongers receive minimum wage only," she said.

Acting government economist Desmond Hou Ka-chun said the minimum wage was last adjusted in 2019 and the cumulative inflation for the four years was 5.4 percent until November 2022.

Hou said if the government increases the minimum wage to HK$44, it will affect the unemployment rate by 0.37 to 0.54 percent, and 13,800 to 19,800 grassroots workers will lose jobs.

A food-store worker, Cheng, said the rise was "better than nothing" and she wishes her employer could raise her rate to more than HK$40 per hour.

But another worker, Fung, said the rise was too small to catch up with inflation. He said his salary is close to the current HK$37.50 minimum wage and he has to work 12 hours per day.

A restaurant owner said it is difficult to hire employees amid the pandemic even if owners raise salaries.

But he is worried the minimum wage rise may hit restaurants' costs, which would eventually be passed on to customers.

The Society for Community Organization said it was "extremely disappointed" by the HK$2.50 rise, saying the slight increase the government is not determined to improve the welfare of workers.

It said the minimum wage should be immediately raised to at least HK$50 per hour and be reviewed every year.

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