Friday, 7 October 2016

The Uphill Battle for Minimum Wage

Fighting for minimum wage in Hong Kong depends on the economic climate
The Hong Kong government wants to do something about poverty, and yet it still caves into the business sector.

Minimum wage was finally made law in July 2010 and enacted in May 2011 set at HK$28 per hour. The rate is reviewed every year, and there were some decent increases in the past years.

Hong Kong has over 150,000 employees on minimum wage
This year, the proposal is only to increase it by HK$2 to HK$34.50 an hour, far less than the HK$41 union representatives had been asking for.

Employer representatives had asked that the wages be frozen at HK$32.50 citing the challenging climate.

If Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his cabinet approve the new wage increase, it will be in effect May next year and affect 154,500 employees in the city.

The raise is only 6.15 percent, compared to 8.3 percent last year and 7.14 percent in 2013.

Leung Chau-ting, a member of the Labour Advisory Board was disappointed with the low increase, saying it was not ideal for employees at all.

Many cleaners are in their 60s and not well educated
"When we agreed to the minimum wage when it was first enacted, we were willing to give in to a low rate because we understood employers needed time to accept it. But after five years, we, as labour representatives, still always seem to be in a weaker position in all the bargaining," Leung said.

This seems strange, considering labour -- ones in mostly in restaurants, delivery, fast food, convenience clerks, cleaners and such -- are in low supply, one would think their value would go up.

Why do the employers get the upper hand?

In the case of dish washers, things have really come to a head. Not only can restaurants not find someone to wash dishes, they won't even take the decent salary offered that is up to HK$20,000 per month -- higher than minimum wage.

Dish washers are in demand but no one wants to do it
It is a physically tough job, working in very hot conditions and pretty thankless really.

Is this a sign that Hong Kong's work force now expects job satisfaction? Or that the "ah sum" or middle-aged women, typically not well educated in their late 50s and 60s who would have done these jobs before are all employed or don't want that work?

Perhaps it's a sign of the times when restaurants now hire companies to wash dishes for them overnight and get the clean ones back in the morning...

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