A programme has been launched to help jobless people to start their own businesses in wet markets where occupation rates have been dropping because of keen competition from supermarket chains.
The scheme, called the Supreme Guide Market, is organised by the Chinese Young Men's Christian Association of Hong Kong and a private wet market.
Applicants, aged between 18 and 35, will be invited to run stalls at Hing Wah Wet Market, Chai Wan.
Under the scheme, they will get their stall rent-free for six months, paying only operational costs including water, electricity, management and air-conditioning fees.
Applicants are required to pay a $2,000 deposit and undergo training in different areas such as wet-market operation, accounting, customer network building and communication skills.
Co-ordinating secretary of the youth group Yeung Kin-tong said the scheme would not only create job opportunities but also help build a new image and bring variety to wet markets.
'Most people think wet markets are only for housewives, the middle-aged and the old. In fact, there are many business opportunities in wet markets and young people, especially those who are out of work, should try starting businesses there,' she said.
Wet market operator So Luk-ming, who manages seven wet markets, said the scheme would help boost the occupation rate in wet markets where business had dropped by 30 per cent.
'The occupation rate has fallen because of keen competition from supermarkets, where fresh food is also available. I hope participants of the scheme can help rejuvenate the wet market industry,' he said.
The organisers have approved five business plans so far, and about 10 to 15 stalls at the wet market in Chai Wan will be provided for participants.
Among them is Moon Wong Kin-chun, 20, who has been unemployed for a month after working at a photo shop for several years.
'I was thinking about going back to school, because it is difficult to find a job now. But I think my study plan will have to wait, as I want to make use of the opportunity to start my own business.'
Her business plan is to set up a games stall where customers can net goldfish to gain points in return for gifts.
'My budget is about $15,000 to $20,000. All gifts will be different during different seasons so that customers will not be bored,' she said.
Another applicant, Cindy Chan Lam-sheung, 35, said she would set up a jade stall with her savings.
'My budget is also about $20,000. My advantage is that I can get stock from my relatives and friends in Fujian province. I only have to pay them for the goods once I make some money with my business,' she said.