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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

Push to hike minimum wage as gap widens

Push to hike minimum wage as gap widens

The minimum wage should be raised significantly to HK$45.40 an hour from the current HK$37.50 to help low-income families cope with inflation, Oxfam has suggested.
The charitable organization released the Hong Kong Poverty Report yesterday, which said the difference in income between the richest and poorest households was 47.3 times - a surge from 34.3 times before the pandemic.

In the first quarter, more than 25 percent in poverty were unemployed, marking a jobless rate of 26.1 percent in the group, which was more than eight times the number of those who did not live in poverty.

Based on analysis of data from the Census and Statistics Department, the report also found that while poverty and unemployment rates surged, the rich got richer. In the first quarter, the median income for households in the poorest group had decreased by 23 percent from 2019.

In contrast, the median income of those in the seventh to 10th richest groups all saw an increase, with the richest 10 percent of households getting a 6.3 percent bump to their incomes on average.

The report comes ahead of Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu's policy address on October 19.

Kalina Tsang Ka-wai, director general of Oxfam Hong Kong, said: "Covid has widened the gap between the rich and poor in Hong Kong, and the problem of unemployment and underemployment among the poor remains severe.

"Poverty is one of the major issues that the new administration must address."

Oxfam said a move to raise the minimum wage to HK$45.40 would benefit nearly 340,000 workers - equivalent to 9 percent of Hong Kong's workforce.

Tsang said some countries had adjusted their wages under challenging economic circumstances, including France, South Korea, Australia and Japan.

Oxfam also called on the government to revive the Temporary Unemployment Relief Scheme, which closed in May. It proposed that authorities allocate HK$1.2 billion to reactivate the scheme and have it run until the end of the year to support an additional 12,000 unemployed people.

Federation of Trade Unions legislator Bill Tang Ka-piu said he welcomed Oxfam's suggestion to raise the minimum wage.

"A lot of people can't support themselves, let alone their families," Tang said. "They'd rather lie flat than be forced to live off the current minimum wage."

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