White workers way ahead in minorities' pay

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2007, 12:00am

Thais at bottom of wage scale

A white person can earn on average five to seven times more than an Indonesian, Nepali or Thai employed other than as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, the latest by-census report on ethnic minorities reveals.

The report, released by the Census and Statistics Department yesterday, shows the median monthly income of a white person, at HK$45,000, was the highest among the city's minorities in 2006. They were followed by Japanese and Koreans, with median monthly incomes of HK$30,000 and HK$25,000.

In contrast, the median income for a Thai, other than a domestic helper, was the lowest last year, at HK$6,500. They were followed by Filipinos, at HK$7,200, and Nepalis, at HK$8,500.

The income disparity was even wider after including domestic helpers in the calculation. While a white person's income remained at HK$45,000, the income for Indonesians and Filipinos dipped to HK$3,320 and HK$3,370.

The overall median monthly income of the working minorities - covering whites, non-Chinese Asians and mixed - was HK$3,500, which was 35 per cent of the median of HK$10,000 for the whole working population last year. But if foreign domestic helpers are excluded, the median of the minorities surpassed that of the general working population, at HK$15,500.

A further breakdown by gender reveals the median monthly income for non-Chinese Asian males was HK$13,500, while that for their white counterparts was higher than HK$50,000. The median monthly income for non-Chinese Asian females was HK$3,320, compared to HK$29,000 for whites.

There were 342,198 members of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong last year, 5 per cent of the population.

Fermi Wong Wai-fun, director of minority rights group Unison, said many South Asians felt their skills and talents were wasted because of prejudice and language barriers.

'There are a lot of Nepal-trained engineers who are working here in construction sites,' she said. 'I have a very frustrated Pakistani friend because he has got a degree in finance and marketing back home and now he can only work as a security guard.'

She also noticed Indians with IT expertise were often given less favourable treatment in the job market compared to Japanese counterparts, even in cases where the former spoke much better English than the latter.

Ms Wong said minorities could get home-country qualifications assessed by accreditation bodies here. However, many did not do so because the exercise, at a few thousand dollars a time, was too costly and tended to downgrade them.

She said she had been lobbying the government to provide recognised workplace Chinese training for minorities, but officials refused to commit resources.

Officials often wrongly attributed the percentage of homemakers - 29.8 per cent of minorities last year - to their religious and cultural beliefs. 'The reality is many of them would like to join the workforce,' she said.