Minimum wage rate should enable people to meet their living expenses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am


The Minimum Wage Commission concluded an eight-week public consultation on minimum wage legislation in Hong Kong on Monday.

It has referred to the potential impact of different statutory minimum wage levels.

Given that the legislation has been in force for 12 months, I think it is timely to give consideration to the present statutory minimum rate of HK$28 an hour.

Say you have someone working 26 days a month and doing a 12-hour daily shift.

If they are not paid for their lunch break, then they will earn HK$308 a day. Also, bear in mind that the cost of their lunch can be in excess of HK$60.

At the end of the month their actual pay packet may come to less than HK$6,500. And consider the things they have to pay for, such as rent and utilities. Their expenditure will be even more if they have children.

Statistics showed a rise in consumer prices in March. People work so hard, sometimes as much as 12 hours a day, but many still cannot afford to meet the expenses of their family or even their personal expenses.

They must sometimes wonder about the point of having a job instead of seeking government support.

When talking about what is an acceptable level for the minimum wage, we have to ask if it is serving its basic purpose.

If workers are receiving a reasonable wage, then their productivity will increase. Some people argue that the higher the level of minimum wage, the worse the effect on the economy. Companies will shut down and people will be put out of work.

However, surely when talking about what constitutes a suitable level, the government should be ensuring that it satisfies the basic needs of people.

The most important feature of this law is that it should ensure workers can afford to meet their expenses. It is not just about corporate social responsibility, but about dealing with the problem of the working poor. The main reason why Hong Kong has huge social contradictions is because so many workers are dissatisfied with their situation.

We need to give careful consideration to what should be the most suitable level for the minimum wage and explain why it should be set at that rate.

James Chan, Clear Water Bay