Accountancy sector pledges to maintain training programmes
With just days to go until the controversial minimum wage becomes law, at least one well-paid profession has welcomed the move and will embrace it to give young people a start in the business.
And as a business whose business is the bottom line, the accountancy sector should know a good thing when it sees it.
Under the new law, all companies must pay their workers at least HK$28 per hour, but there will be certain exemptions - one being interns.
They may be exempt if the internship is part of a university course such as an accredited hotel course. It may also apply if the intern declares that he or she is under 26 and is willing to forgo being paid.
'The new law is going to affect the accounting industry's internship programme from the coming summer break onwards,'' said Philip Tsai Wing-chung, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
The institute has not set any industry standards on pay rates for interns, said Tsai, and it would be up to individual firms to decide what to do with their internship programmes.
Tsai is a partner of accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, which hires about 200 interns a year.
Last year it paid the interns HK$5,000 a month and this year it will need to increase that pay to HK$7,000, he said, based on an eight-hour day and assuming that holiday pay is included in the agreement.
'Deloitte has not yet decided on the levels, but what we can confirm is that we will not cut our intern programme to gain exemptions from the minimum wage requirements,' Tsai said. 'Some of our interns work for four months or one year and we will pay them the minimum salary.'
While the industry's wage costs would increase, firms could afford to pay the additional wages and would not abandon their internship programmes, he said.
Agnes Chan, regional managing partner of the Hong Kong and Macau office of Ernst & Young, expected a 'minimal' increase in the cost of the firm's internship programme.
'We typically have our internship programme for local and overseas universities students during universities' summer and winter period, and we will continue doing so in the upcoming year,' she said.
KPMG China's partner in charge of human resources, Melissa Wu, said the minimum wage would not impact on the firm's salary costs of its employees, but may increase the cost of its internship programme.
'While the minimum wage will add some additional cost to our internship programmes, the amount is not significant and will not affect the number of people we hire. In fact, we are looking to increase the number of interns in 2012.'
Wu said KPMG ran its internship programme as part of its recruitment strategy and hired about 1,500 interns for the whole of China, including 200 to 300 in Hong Kong.
'The programme provides good work experience for the students and gives us the opportunity to get to know them and vice versa,' Wu said.
PwC said in a statement it was always focused on ensuring its interns were remunerated fairly. It said: 'PwC will continue to support the hiring of interns, which has remained at levels well over 100 interns each year for the past several years.'