Hong Kong freezes minimum wage amid pandemic woes

The minimum wage in Hong Kong has been frozen for the first time since the Minimum Wage Ordinance came into effect in 2011.
By: | May 25, 2021

The freeze is due to the city’s “deep recession with an elevated unemployment rate” and to “strike an appropriate balance between the objectives of forestalling excessively low wages and minimising the loss of low-paid jobs”, said Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong. 

In response, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) – the city’s largest labour group with more than 410,000 members – has called the freeze “unfair and unreasonable” to the grassroots, whose purchasing power will be eroded by inflation. 

Dennis Leung Tsz-wing, a member of HKFTU’s Rights and Benefits Committee, said in a petition campaign that they have been lobbying for subsidies for workers living on minimum wage to ensure their quality of life, adding that if the government insists on freezing the minimum wage level at HK$37.5 (US$4.8) per hour, it should offer subsidies to make up for the loss of actual purchasing power. 

Leung argued that the loss of some 20,000 low-paid jobs is too few to affect the entire labour market, and the government need only to set aside HK$100 million (US$12.9 million) annually to subsidise workers for a raise of HK$2 (US$0.26). 

READ: Hong Kong’s civil service unions back salary freeze for officials

There were 16,500 employees paid the minimum hourly wage of HK$37.5 (US$4.8) as of June last year, accounting for 0.6% of the local workforce, according to a government report published in late March. Previous reports showed more than half of these workers were in the estate management, security and cleaning services sectors, according to China Daily.