My Take

Ordinary Hong Kong people will be paying for minimum wage increase

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 3:59am

Business owners in Hong Kong will have to find another HK$1.4 billion if the minimum wage goes up by HK$3 an hour.

Wait a minute. You are saying the business owners will dip into their own pockets to find this money? You must be from some other planet if you think so. They will promptly pass the buck to you and me and blame the increased wage for the price rise. So what are business owners worried about?

According to the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, if the minimum wage is raised beyond HK$32, it will affect competitiveness and many firms will struggle to survive. Some will even be forced to shut down as they crumble under the weight of these increased wages, they warn. One must be blind, deaf and dumb not to understand that what is squeezing Hong Kong business is the rents that keep going up without control. It's not unheard of here for greedy landlords to jack up rents by more than 100 per cent. That probably forces more shops to close than those who cannot afford a 10 per cent wage rise. But then we don't like to talk about the elephant in the room, do we?

Businessmen also complain that minimum wages are going up on the mainland. Well, that is how the trickle-down theory of capitalism works. When the profit and wealth of business owners accumulate, it is meant to overflow to the lower levels. If bosses want wages to remain at constant levels all the time, they have missed the boat. They used to do it in the old Soviet Union.

The inequality of wealth accumulation became a hot topic after French economist Thomas Piketty came out with his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. He argues that the trickle-down theory is not working because the bowl of the rich simply gets bigger. He was duly characterised as a socialist in economist's clothing. And when Pope Francis also weighed in on the same issue, he was labelled a Marxist.

So let us not be the devil's advocate here and let the minimum wage remain stagnant while adding to the list of millionaires and billionaires in the city. The pope may not be too pleased, though, especially when he hears that the wage increase being proposed by businessmen here is just 6.66 per cent.