Contrary to what some business owners fear, the introduction of the minimum wage law in Hong Kong didn’t seem to hit hard the industries mostly affected by the standardization of wage floor. Minimum hourly wage was set at HK$28 since May and employers have expressed fear that it could bring on more unemployment and business closures.
Instead, the lowest paid workers have the wage law to thank. That’s because since the new hourly rate was implemented in May, those who belong in the bottom end of the payscale enjoy increases in their monthly paychecks. This is not really surprising if they used to get paid much lower before.
The findings come from a survey conducted by the People’s Alliance for Minimum Wage, which asked 519 workers in September about their wages. The survey found out that workers in the catering industry benefited the most. Caterings and Hotels Industries Employees Union President Lee Wan-lung said that a dish washer in Hong Kong can earn up to HK$8,500 a month. Before the minimum wage low, its salary was not expected to go beyond HK$5,000.
However, it seems that the wage hike is not enough. The survey also found out that some workers in the said industry preferred to move onto other jobs that were perceived easier to carry out, such as cleaners or security personnel. Being in the catering industry requires working at unusual hours; one to start early in the morning or leave work past midnight. Restaurants in the city need 200,000 workers to function and with some employees leaving the industry, bringing in qualified workers often require higher salary offers.
While the increase benefits mostly those who were paid the lowest, workers who belong to the middle payscale barely have had any positive salary adjustment. That said, claims by employers of a widespread unemployment should minimum wage be implemented is largely unfounded; Hong Kong’s jobless rate currently stands at 3.2 per cent, a 13-year low.
Somehow, the introduction of the minimum wage law boosts the buying power of those who earn a little now that the city is facing inflation rates at unprecedented levels. For instance, cleaners’ salaries rose by 23.7 per cent and security guards had a pay rise of 7.8 per cent to meet the mandatory wage standard.
Although rising wages becomes an increasing concern, employers still think higher prices of ingredients and soaring rents are the primary concerns.