Workers earning the HK$28 per hour minimum wage will have to wait to hear if they can expect a pay rise this year after a review panel failed to reach any conclusions during a tough all-day meeting.
It comes as a survey showed the vast majority of Hongkongers wanted to see a big increase in the minimum wage.
One person familiar with yesterday's negotiations by the Minimum Wage Commission told the South China Morning Post: "Government officials presented the latest economic data and conducted simulations at the meeting, predicting the impact on new jobs per each 50 [HK] cent or dollar increase."
However, they said new data that could affect those figures would be coming in at the end of the month, so the decision had to be put on hold. No date for the next meeting had been set, the person added.
A decision has to be made by the end of October, the deadline for a final recommendation to be submitted to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. It is then up to the Executive Council to decide whether to adopt it.
One member of the 13-strong commission, which includes workers and business representatives, said in an e-mailed response to an inquiry from the Post that confidentiality rules forbade any disclosure of what was discussed, adding: "It is surely a very controversial issue right now."
While the business sector has been arguing for a mild rise - if any - labour unions have been pressing for an increase at least in line with inflation, which stood at 4.2 per cent year on year in July.
Labour minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung yesterday said inflation was just one of the factors that had to be taken into account - with economic growth, unemployment data and the business environment considered alongside the consumer price index.
A survey carried out in the last two months by the People's Alliance for a Minimum Wage showed that one in 10 people wanted the minimum wage, introduced last May, to be left at HK$28. More than 80 per cent suggested HK$35 an hour as an ideal level.