Hong Kong unemployment rate hits new 9-year high

Year-on-year declines in total employment and the labour force widened further to 3.6% and 2.2% respectively, both the largest on record.
By: | April 21, 2020

Having recorded a 9-year high of 3.7% in the December 2019- February 2020 period, Hong Kong’s unemployment rate took a further hit, with the seasonally adjusted jobless rate from January to March 2020 rising to 4.2%.

The latest figures from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department also revealed that the underemployment rate hit a decade high of 2.1%, from 1.5% in the previous three-month rolling period.

With total employment falling by around 48,800 to 3.72 million, the year-on-year declines in total employment and the labour force widened further to 3.6% and 2.2% respectively, both the largest on record.

The hardest-hit sectors include the consumption and tourism-related industries, which registered 6.8% unemployment rate; and the construction sector, where the unemployment rate rose to 8.5%.

Highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp deterioration in the labour market by severely disrupting a wide range of economic activities, Law Chi-kwong, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labour and Welfare, cautioned, “The labour market will continue to face significant pressure from the economic fallout arising from the pandemic in the near-time.”

He, however, is confident that government relief measures, such as the Anti-epidemic Fund, worth HK$287.5 billion, will help to preserve the vitality of the economy and relive workers’ financial burdens.

To further alleviate the unemployment issue, Hong Kong’s Labour Department will raise the ceiling of on-the-job training (OJT) allowance payable to employers under the Employment Programme for the Elderly and Midde-aged, the Youth Employment and Training Programme and the Work Orientation and Placement Scheme, in the second half of 2020.

This is to encourage employers to hire elderly persons aged 60 or above, as well as young people and persons with disabilities, and provide them with OJT.

The Labour Department will also launch a pilot scheme in the second half of 2020 to encourage eligible elderly persons, and young people and persons with disabilities, to undergo and complete OJT under the various employment programmes, through the provision of a retention allowance.