Quarter of South Asians are underpaid
Jolie Ho and Jennifer Ngo
One in four South Asian workers in Hong Kong is paid below the minimum wage, according to a survey by a local trade union.
After interviewing 238 South Asian workers, the Holy Cross Centre's Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs discovered a quarter of the respondents received less than HK$28 an hour, the rate as stipulated by law.
More than half of the underpaid workers are security guards aged 40 to 49. One in five is paid less than HK$6,000 a month.
One respondent, who declined to be named for fear of losing his job, said he worked 24 hours a day as he was not allowed to leave his place of employment during his on-duty days. However, he said he was only paid for 12 hours a day.
'He cannot communicate in English and Chinese. He is afraid that he cannot get another job,' said Sairah Abbas, the commission's assistant programme officer. 'All he wants is to have the same wage level as other Hongkongers.'
Dorothy Lee Ching-man, supervisor of the Holy Cross Centre, said most South Asians interviewed were employed in low-wage elementary occupations, were less educated and were middle-aged.
'They are easily deprived of labour rights protection because of the language barrier,' she added.
The commission urged the new government to establish a body to examine and address the needs of local ethnic minority groups.
Meanwhile, local ethnic minority students have appealed to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his education minister, Eddie Ng Hak-kim, for subsidies to sit internationally recognised Chinese examinations such as the GCE AS or Advanced Level exams.
The group marched from Wan Chai to government headquarters in Admiralty to deliver a letter to the Education Bureau. They expressed concerns about their chances of advancing to tertiary education when they could not be part of an assessment that caters for those who learn Chinese as a second language.
Local schools only provide GCSE-level Chinese examinations, equivalent to Primary Two or Three.