Cleaners and guards eating less as prices rise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 September, 2011, 12:00am


One in two cleaners and security guards - the first low-paid sectors to receive a legal wage floor - say they are eating less because of rising food prices, a survey has found.

One in five said they bought food products about to expire - which usually carry a discount - to save money, the Friends of the Earth study found.

'Food expense has weighed heavily on workers. Even with extra frugality, we may lose out to inflation,' said Law Chi-wai, head of the Cleaning Service Industry Workers Union. 'The grass roots are usually manual workers. Economically-induced dieting will affect their work performance eventually.'

The green group was commissioned by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions to poll cleaners, janitors and property security officers by phone in July and August. About 240 people responded to the poll.

Some two-thirds said they would compare prices of a product in different shops before buying.

A similar proportion said they would opt for cheaper, frozen food, while more than half said they would eat less meat or eat less in general.

A minority said they would go to a market when it was about to close because goods were cheaper then, buy food that was about to expire, or even collect unwanted produce.

Friends of the Earth said the amount of food thrown away from banquets had risen almost threefold in a decade, according to another survey it conducted last year but which was released yesterday. Rice dumped at landfills over one year was enough to feed 440,000 families of four for a day.

The group's senior environmental affairs officer, Michelle Au Wing-tze, called on diners to order only what they needed in restaurants.

It has also urged the government to provide more housing assistance for low-income families.

The call was made after Hong Kong Christian Service found that seven out of 10 people think having to pay high rents has greatly undermined the quality of their lives.

The group interviewed over 200 people and almost half said they spent more than 40 per cent of their household income on rent. Half of those questioned also said their rent had increased this year by an average of 10 per cent.