Union anger at 'distorted' jobless rate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 October, 1997, 12:00am

Unemployment in the industrial sector is more than three times higher than the official rate, a new survey claimed yesterday.

And the government jobless rate may not accurately reflect the employment situation because more people of working age are not being counted as part of the labour force.

Ng Chi-man, a senior secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and the conductor of the survey, said the Government's labour policy was being distorted by its jobless rate, which appeared to be dropping.

'The Government will be more willing to import foreign labour because they think local people are mostly employed when they are not,' he said.

The survey, which interviewed 1,004 federation members, found that 8.1 per cent were unemployed while 5.8 per cent were underemployed - working less than 35 hours a week - in manufacturing, transport and communications sectors.

This contrasted with the official rates of 2.2 per cent for unemployment and one per cent for underemployment between July and September.

Citing government figures, Mr Ng said labour participation had dropped from 66.3 per cent of people aged over 15 in 1981 to 61.4 per cent this year.

The drop was mainly due to people who left the labour force in the past and were now unable to find jobs, he said.

But Hong Kong University of Science and Technology associate professor in economics Leung Siu-fai said no conclusion could be drawn on falling labour participation because no scientific study had been conducted. 'There may be many reasons for the decrease. For example, in wealthy societies people tend to retire earlier,' he said.

A Census and Statistics Department spokesman said that total employment continued to grow faster than the labour force.

Meanwhile, members of the Democratic Party will march to the Central Government Offices today to demand the Government does not import extra foreign labour.