Chamber chief suggests labour import
As minimum wage rises, few locals want to toil for long hours, creating shortages in some jobs
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The statutory minimum wage has exacerbated the labour shortage for low-skilled jobs that require long working hours, says the head of Hong Kong's largest business organisation.
Chow Chung-kong, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, said consideration should be given to the importation of workers for select industries that were suffering from serious labour shortages.
He said that after the statutory minimum wage of HK$28 an hour was implemented in May last year, employers found it more difficult to fill vacancies for jobs requiring long working hours, such as elderly-care workers and dishwashers.
"Workers would not be bothered taking these unattractive jobs after the introduction of the minimum wage, as they now have better-paid choices."
Members of the Minimum Wage Commission agreed last month that the level should rise from HK$28 to HK$30 an hour. The Legislative Council must approve the increase.
Chow, who was elected chamber chairman in May, said there was still a serious shortage of labour in the construction industry.
"We should consider alternatives such as importation of labour if some industries fail to attract enough workers," he said.
The supplementary labour scheme, administered by the Labour Department, allows employers experiencing "genuine difficulties" in finding suitable local staff to import labour at "technician level or below".
Chow said some member companies had expressed concerns about the difficulty of across-the-board implementation of standard working hours.
"It is impractical to impose stringent requirements on working hours for accountants and barristers," he said.
A study on standard working hours was completed by the government in June, with findings to be considered by officials.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged in his election platform to set up a committee of officials, bosses, workers and academics to further study standard working hours.
Chow, also chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, called on the government to provide more places in international schools to lure overseas talent.