On paper, Hong Kong wage earners had a banner year in the 12 months to September, seeing average pay rises of 9.9 per cent, according to the Census and Statistics Department.
In real terms - after factoring in inflation - the average wage rise in all industries surveyed still rose by a 'notable' 4.4 per cent, a government spokesman said yesterday.
About 80 per cent of firms reported increases in average wage rates as of September compared with a year earlier, while 15 per cent reported that wages had dropped.
The largest increases were for cleaners, bolstered in part by the statutory minimum hourly wage of HK$28 launched in May, a government spokesman said.
Other studies have confirmed increased earnings for the lowest-paid workers, especially those in the catering industry.
'In real terms, the average wage rate also showed notable growth, at 4.4 per cent,' the spokesman said.
The wage rate includes basic wages as well as other, regular allowances and bonuses.
Wages for staff in the professional and business services industries were up 15.6 per cent, but only 9.9 per cent after inflation is taken into account.
Those in the real estate leasing and maintenance management industry received the second-largest increase - 10.6 per cent in nominal terms and 5.2 per cent in real terms.
People working in the transport industry fared the worst over the year, with their wages remaining the same in real terms as a year ago.
Despite this year's almost across-the-board pay rises, employers will use the global financial crisis as a pretext to keep pay rises small next year, the Confederation of Trade Unions warned last month.
Labour Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said last month he believed employees would see a rise in their salaries given the current economic situation.
'Competent businesses should treat their employees well,' he said.
In September, the People's Alliance for a Minimum Wage released a survey on the effects of Hong Kong's minimum wage.
It found that the wages of security guards and cleaners - traditionally among the lowest paid workers - had increased by 7.8 per cent and 23.7 per cent, respectively, to meet the new legal minimum.
Dishwashers, who earned less than HK$5,000 a month before the minimum wage, could earn up to HK$8,500 since it came into effect, it found.
The average Australian saw their pay rise by this much this year.
- The minimum hourly rate is A$15.51 (HK$122.39)