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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 9:50am
NewsHong Kong

Business chambers voice concerns over working hours

Chambers say it will harm the growth of the city as democrats call for 40- to 44-hour work week

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2012, 8:41am


  • Yes: 35%
  • No: 65%
24 Nov 2012
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 406

Seven of the city's biggest business chambers have sent a rare joint letter to the government, warning that legislating standard working hours would hurt the commercial environment.

The chambers wrote to Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung yesterday, a few days before the government is expected to table a study report to the Labour Advisory Board for discussion.

The carefully drafted letter does not say directly that the chambers oppose such a law, but warns it would be detrimental to the city's steady and robust economic growth.

"The far-reaching implications of regulating standard working hours have the potential to rock the fundamentals which have underlined Hong Kong's success," it says.

Pan-democrats have called for a 40- to 44-hour working week and want people who put in longer hours to be paid 1-1/2 times their usual wage rate. In a poll of retail workers in the summer, most respondents said they worked more than 54 hours a week.

Businesses claim a minimum wage law that sets hourly pay at no less than HK$28 has pushed up operation costs since it went into force in May last year.

The letter was issued by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Retail Management Association and Employers' Federation of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is one of the most service-oriented economies in the world and that means other countries' experiences with this law may not work here, it says.

"Realistically, it is simply too difficult to set 'standard' working hours for different industries in a free economy."

It also warns that bosses may have to hire temporary or part-time workers to avoid handling excessive overtime claims.

When asked if the letter was meant to exert pressure on the government, Jonathan Choi Koon-shum, standing committee member of the Chinese General Chamber, said the chambers simply wanted to express their concerns to the administration.


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This article is now closed to comments

This would provide Hong Kong the opportunity to join the ranks of enlightened societies; one where the interests and well being of citizens takes priority. Sadly, in work-obsessed Hong Kong, I fear that the interests of fear mongering businesses will take precedent.
Employers will always oppose any form of increase to their cost of doing business. Yet they don't complain of super high rent and petition the government to control rent increases. Minimum wage and standard working hours will cut into their profit margin. These employers should try to be workers in their own business and see what kind of life the employees have with the wages they pay, and the long working hours. Proper working hours will lead to family and social harmony.
"Seven of the city's biggest business chambers have sent a rare joint letter to the government, warning that legislating standard working hours would hurt the commercial environment." What a shock to think that such interests are opposed to standard working hours. Given the opposition to a minimum, much less living, wage, independent unions, and vigorous and effective environmental protections, no one should at surprised at this.
And what of the Basic Law? Hong Kong fought hard to receive its guarantee of a laissez-faire economy. That's now in tatters and nobody blinks.
I would like the owners of the service or manufacturing sector either to take in less profit or move on to some other business. The first choice may not be a choice if the law succeeds in setting a fairer society. The second choice is simply out of the principle of free economy. I suspect New York City has a much larger service economy than Hong Kong’s. Yet it has working hours limit and overtime pay. Well, since some twenty years ago. Thanks for the government to move on and catch up for Hong Kong to be a better place to live for all.


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