Wage law lures more elderly out to seek jobs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2011, 12:00am


The minimum wage law has led more people - especially the elderly - to come out to work, said the body overseeing the city's first statutory wage floor.

From May 1, when the HK$28-an-hour wage was enforced, to July, the labour force grew by 45,500, compared with a year earlier, the Minimum Wage Commission said in a review of the new law's effect.

'Though the number of young people in the labour force also increased, the notable increase was in old people,' commission member Helen Chan said.

Chan, a government economist, said the number of people between 50 and 59 who were willing to work rose 23,600, and 21,000 had been able to land a job. About 8,000 people 60 or above wanted to enter or re-enter the labour market and most found a job.

The situation is in sharp contrast to warnings from employers that many old people would be ousted from the job market by younger people.

Chan said that though the wage floor might be a factor in luring people to seek work, the buoyant economy - with unemployment at 3.4 per cent - made it easier to find a job.

The commission also found that the average monthly income for the lowest 10 per cent of workers increased by 9.7 per cent from May to July, compared with the same period last year. During the same period, the average wage rose 5.7 per cent.

'Even if we take inflation into account, the real income of these low-paid workers is still higher. Their living standard has improved,' Chan said.

Labour unions called on the commission to review the minimum wage level as soon as possible in the wake of record high inflation - 7.9 per cent last month, the sharpest jump in 16 years - but the commission remained adamant it would not recommend a new level before November next year.

'We have to look into a number of factors, including rents, the labour market condition and the business environment, to determine the wage level. Inflation is only one of the factors,' commission chairman Jat Sew-tong said.

'The present wage level was put forward by the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission after serious discussion among workers and employers. We should be patient to see what the impact of the wage floor will be before deciding our next move.'