Hong Kong welfare minister rejects temporary unemployment fund

The minister said that it would be tricky to draw the line for when the scheme should stop, and urged that public policy needs to be fair.
By: | February 18, 2021

Hong Kong’s welfare minister Law Chi-kwong has rejected demands from labour unions for a HK$15 billion (US$1.93 billion) unemployment fund that will distribute HK$9,000 (US$1,161) per month to unemployed workers for up to six months. 

“For setting up a temporary unemployment fund, it is difficult to draw a line for when this scheme should stop,” the minister told a radio programme on Sunday, according to South China Morning Post. 

“It would be strange if we halted the scheme after a certain period of time or when the unemployment rate had dropped to a certain percentage point… for every public policy, we need to be fair,” he said.

On Saturday, Law cautioned that unemployment in Hong Kong could surpass 7% after the Lunar New Year holiday, thereby hitting a new 16-year high. He predicted than tens of thousands more workers could be out of work, and noted that it was still too early to forecast when a recovery could happen. 

READ: Unemployment in Hong Kong not just limited to grassroots level

In Q4 last year, Hong Kong’s unemployment rate hit 6.6%, with 245,800 people unemployed. Retail, accommodation and catering were the hardest hit.

In 2003, Hong Kong’s unemployment rate hit 8.5% during the SARS outbreak, which killed 299 people in the city.