FROM May 2017, minimum wage in Hong Kong will be raised by HK$2 to hit HK$34.50 (US$4.45), the smallest increase since the baseline was put in place five years ago.
The increase is far below that demanded by labour lobby groups and unionists, who had wanted to minimum wage set between HK$36 (US$4.64) and HK$41 (US$5.28).
According to South China Morning Post (SCMP) a source familiar with the negotiations said that “all commission members had finally indicated their consent on the minimum wage level”.
The source is referring to the Minimum Wage Commission that has been engaged in discussions on wage increases with all stakeholders.
The report added that the decision will now be presented to the Executive Council for final approval before it is made official.
The decision on the raise was reached following last week’s six-hour meeting among employees and employer representatives, which SCMP noted had resulted in a deadlock.
The new salary scheme will come into effect next May and is expected to affect about 154,500 workers across the semi-autonomous region who currently earn hourly wages below HK$34.50.
The previous wage increase in 2015 was 8.3 percent, the report added, far higher than this year’s 6.15 percent increase. In 2013, wages were increased by 7.14 percent.
“We are all quite disappointed with the increase, it is not ideal for employees at all,” Leung Chau-ting, a member of the Labour Department’s Labour Advisory Board, was quoted saying.
He also revealed that employee representatives had tried “very hard” to negotiate for higher rates but were unable to win the argument.
“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 was quoted saying.
Hong Kong first implemented the hourly minimum wage system in 2011 amid much controversy and heated debates between employers and unionists. At the time, the wage floor was set at HK$28 (US$3.61) and reportedly affected about 189,000 workers.