At 77, she's had enough of life on HK$22 an hour

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am

Li Ping-kit's wages have doubled in the past 11 years - but she still earns only HK$22.40 a hour.

Working from 5pm to 11pm each day, 26 days a month, in a public toilet near her home in Yau Ma Tei, she takes home HK$3,366 a month.

She'd love to see her hourly rate go up to HK$30 an hour, which would give her a monthly income of HK$5,500.

But even if the statutory minimum wage is set at that amount, it will be no help to Li because, at 77, she's decided it's time to retire. Today is her last day.

'The cleaning job is not tough. I mainly clean the toilet, change the toilet paper and remove rubbish,' she said. 'But my waist and legs are very painful from time to time.'

Another reason for quitting is that she is moving to a public estate in Sham Shui Po and does not like taking public transport because it makes her feel sick. Her present job is 10 minutes' walk from her home.

Li, who has worked at the public toilet since coming to Hong Kong from the mainland in 1999, earned HK$10.90 an hour then.

Living in an 80 square foot, HK$1,100-a-month cubicle in an old tenement building, she said she did not earn enough to meet her needs.

'I don't have extra money to buy clothes. Sometimes, people give away their food, furniture and electrical appliances to me. Meat is too expensive so I seldom buy it,' she said.

But she said she had enjoyed the independence of earning her own money. After today, she will have to survive on government welfare.

Her two children work on the mainland and do not earn enough to help support her.

Ng Wai-tung, community organiser of the Society for Community Organisation, said a minimum wage of HK$22 an hour, as advocated by some business groups, would not help cleaning workers like Li.

'It is not enough for them to live on,' Ng said. He will help Li seek any payments due to her on her last day.