Minimum Wage

Minimum wage makes finding elderly-care staff difficult

Old people's homes struggle to fill positions despite offering pay well above the minimum wage, chairman of a service association says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 4:45am

A minimum wage of HK$50 an hour, let alone the proposed new level of HK$30, would not help in hiring people to look after the elderly and infirm, according to the chairman of the Elderly Services Association of Hong Kong.

Kenneth Chan Chi-yuk said that since the minimum wage took effect in May last year the sector had struggled with a manpower shortage as workers quit for less physically demanding jobs, such as security guard. It has left the industry operating with less than three-quarters of the employees it needs.

Members of the Minimum Wage Commission agreed last month the minimum pay should rise from HK$28 to HK$30 an hour. The Legislative Council must approve the increase.

Chan called the increase irrelevant. "The manpower shortage in this industry is already so bad it cannot get any worse.

"Some homes for the elderly offer HK$50 an hour and they still cannot recruit enough staff. Such a manpower shortage can harm the quality of services to the elderly."

Chan - whose association represents 400 homes for the elderly - runs the Oasis Nursing Home in Tsz Wan Shan with 200 staff. He had hoped to hire 30 more by offering HK$41 an hour in an advertisement posted in a Chinese-language newspaper last month.

But, by the time he spoke to the South China Morning Post, only one person had called for details and they rang off before an interview could be arranged.

Chan said the association had asked the Confederation of Trade Unions - which has been pushing for a minimum wage level of HK$35 an hour - to see whether it could help arrange 200 workers at HK$50 an hour - all in vain.

Chan said the sector should have 18,000 workers but was about 5,000 short of that figure. Recruitment problems coupled with rising operating costs had forced some old people's homes out of business.

He suggested the government allow people from other countries to work in Hong Kong in the elderly care sector to ease the shortage.

Cheng Ching-fat, head of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said it had been difficult to recruit people to work in old people's homes. He said employers should rethink the salaries, given the often difficult nature of the work.