Hong Kong welfare minister rejects temporary unemployment fund
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.
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.