Pay rise to help buoy lifeguards
The government needs more than 800 seasonal staff this year and in-house training is offered
THE GOVERNMENT WILL increase the monthly pay of its seasonal lifeguards this year following trends in this esoteric sector where competition for qualified professionals is increasing.
Under a recruitment programme launched last November, the Leisure & Cultural Services Department will employ more than 800 seasonal lifeguards at a monthly salary of HK$10,800 from April to October. This is a 4.85 per cent increase over last year and is the third consecutive annual pay increase for the department's seasonal lifeguards.
According to Winnie Yeung Su-jung, the department's chief executive officer for leisure services, the department started conducting an annual survey on market pay trends for lifeguards three years ago to help it review and adjust the salary of its seasonal lifeguards.
The survey last year canvassed lifeguard services companies, management companies of housing estates, universities and other establishments with swimming facilities.
'Because this is a small market, we basically watch each other closely,' Ms Yeung said.
'Our findings show that the pay levels offered by employers in this sector are commensurate with the job duties of the employees.'
While the department has a regular complement of about 800 full-year lifeguards, it needs to engage the additional service of seasonal lifeguards from April to October every year to meet the public's increased demand during the swimming season.
The department estimates that this year more than 800 seasonal staff will be required at the beaches, swimming pools and water sports centres it manages.
Candidates are required to possess recognised life-saving qualifications and, preferably, training in first aid. They also have to pass a swimming and life-saving test, and meet specific requirements for eyesight.
Applicants should be prepared to work shifts, overtime and Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Those employed will receive a gratuity on satisfactory completion of their contract with good performance and conduct.
'Because our swimming facilities are dispersed around Hong Kong we also need to take account of where the applicants live and prefer to work. It is important to deploy our seasonal recruits to cover the different locations of our facilities without problem,' Ms Yeung said.
The Leisure & Cultural Services Department is the market's biggest employer of lifeguards, but faces increasing competition as new housing developments are built with swimming facilities for residents.
Although small in their individual requirements, these private establishments tap the same limited pool of about 4,000 qualified lifeguards available in Hong Kong.
The department experiences a turnover of 200 to 300 seasonal lifeguards every year.
Ms Yeung said that given the substantial difference in the number of lifeguards required between the high and low seasons, the use of seasonal staff helped the department to deploy human resources efficiently and avoid wastage.
'We are able to fully engage our basic team of lifeguards through redeployment during the low season. It is also a time for staff to take their annual leave and to do skills enhancement training because they can't do this during the busy months. So the present system ensures that no staff will be left idle for half of the year.'
To supplement the training provided by life-saving societies and help maintain an adequate pool of qualified lifeguards in the market, the department organises a trainee scheme for those who want to join the profession.
The scheme offers four-month and six-month courses which enable trainees to qualify as beach lifeguards, and beach and swimming pool lifeguards.
'The courses include on-site training and relevant skills training such as first aid. The six-month course covers specific aspects of manning a swimming pool, such as the operation of the filtration plant room. For those who like water sports and want a job that is not dry, the scheme offers a good channel for becoming a lifeguard.'
Graduates of the scheme will be considered favourably for employment by lifeguard services companies.
Working as a lifeguard with the department is also an advantage for those hoping to move into other areas of government work.
'Because our trainees and lifeguards are highly disciplined and all-rounded they have the opportunity to move on to other relevant jobs in the government such as the disciplined services. The prospect for career development is really good,' Ms Yeung said.
800 plus seasonal lifeguards will be employed from April to October.
Pay will be increased to about HK$10,800 per month.
There are opportunities for moving into other areas of government work.
The department operates a scheme to help people qualify.