13pc jobless, say unionists

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 November, 1998, 12:00am

The jobless rate had hit 13.7 per cent, unionists said yesterday after carrying out their own survey.

Their findings were 8.7 per cent higher than the official five per cent rate for July-September.

Unionists claimed the official statistics ignored large groups of people.

The 270,000-strong Federation of Trade Unions launched its own employment survey, conducted every quarter, four years ago.

It believed government statistics underestimated problems faced by the lower working class.

The union interviewed 1,185 members in late September.

Transport, communication, construction, manufacturing and the retail trade were the five sectors hardest hit, the union said.

The union found the underemployment rate - people working fewer hours than they want to - rose from 7.3 per cent in April-June to 7.5 per cent in July-September.

More than 64 per cent of respondents said their pay rises this year were below the inflation rate or had been frozen.

Legislator Chan Yuen-han, union vice-chairman, said the big difference in the findings between the government and union was down to a 'hidden' jobless population of 150,000.

'Most of them are housewives who have failed to look for short-term or part-time jobs. They need jobs to help lessen financial difficulties faced by their families, but they are not being counted,' Ms Chan said.

Fellow legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, chief executive of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said: 'The Government refuses to count them because it believed housewives and students would not stay in the workforce permanently.' Ms Chan urged the Government to develop sectors beneficial to the community to provide job opportunities.

Unionists also proposed tax exemptions for housewives in nursery and elderly care services.