Career Advice Office Gossip

Minimum wage 'should rise to HK$38 an hour'

A concern group yesterday made a last-ditch effort to persuade the government to raise the statutory minimum hourly wage to HK$38, a week before a commission is due to make its recommendation on the matter.

Citing recent media reports that said the Minimum Wage Commission was likely to propose raising the hourly rate to HK$32.50, the People's Alliance for Minimum Wage said this was still not good enough.

The current statutory minimum wage stands at HK$30 an hour.

Alliance spokesman Poon Man-hon said an increase of just HK$2.50, or 8.3 per cent, was less than the rise in the inflation rate since 2011 - the year that the statutory minimum wage came into effect.

The alliance earlier this month compared the prices of three standard meals on offer at 87 cha chaan teng in nine districts. It found that a minimum hourly rate of HK$32.50 would not cover the cost of any of the three dishes. 

The average price for a plate of Yeung Chow fried rice, for instance, costs HK$35.50, according to the alliance's survey.

"The survey highlights the fact that workers would remain unable to afford their basic needs [even with a HK$2.50 increase to the current statutory minimum hourly wage]," Poon said.

And he argued that a bigger increase to the minimum rate, such as taking it to HK$38 an hour, would not have a big impact on employers.

"The increase would not be detrimental," he said. "It would only increase companies' spending by 6 to 7 per cent. The impact on the business sector would not be significant." 

Poon added that the government should review the minimum wage rate on a yearly basis.

According to a source familiar with the Minimum Wage Commission's confidential discussions, commission members came to an initial consensus to set the new minimum hourly rate at HK$32.50 at a meeting earlier this month.

Another source said the commission had arrived at a consensus to fix the new wage level between HK$32 and HK$33, but that the final amount had yet to be decided.

It was earlier reported that employers in the city would have to fork out an extra HK$1.4 billion a year if the minimum hourly rate rose to HK$33.

The 12-member commission, headed by senior counsel Jat Sew-tong, is expected to submit a report on its recommendation to the Chief Executive in Council for consideration at the end of the month. 

The proposal would have to be endorsed by the Legislative Council before it takes effect.

Timmy Sung