All work and low pay

After prolonged debate, it is becoming clear that the minimum wage is likely to be set at HKD28 (about USD3.6) per hour - an obvious compromise between the shameful HKD20 (about USD2.6) per hour proposed by the business sector and HKD33 (about USD4.2) per hour that the pressure groups have been fighting for. Hardly a victory for the unskilled or low-skilled workers in the labour force.

Elsewhere, according to the latest government statistics, workers in Hong Kong are having to work longer hours. In the second quarter this year, the number of workers having to work for over 50 hours per week has increased by 11% compared with the same period last year. The 128 million workers having to do so constitute over one-third (36.7%) of the labour force. Some 30,000 workers even have to toil for over 75 hours, representing an increase of 5.5% compared with the same period last year.

Let's do a bit of calculation. If a worker receiving the proposed minimum wage works for 75 hours for 52 weeks per year, his annual income will be HKD109,200 (USD14,000), which is not even half of the 2009 Hong Kong GDP per capita of USD29,826.

If a worker receiving the proposed minimum wage would like to have an annual income equivalent to the GDP per capita, how many hours does he has to work? The answer is that he would have to work 22.8 hours per day every single day of the week!

This says much about the plight of the poor and the gap between them and the rich.

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