A DISTURBING fear that more people are to be thrown out of work in the run up to 1997 is emerging among the territory's workforce. Employees also foresee that the money they earn will buy less, that owning a flat will remain out of their reach and that even if they could afford it, they will probably decide to hang on to the cash anyway. These were the findings of a survey of 1,145 people stopped on the street by members of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) and asked how they think things were going. The worrying trends it produced, however, prompted the ADPL to decide that similar tests of people's confidence were needed every two months. An astonishing 67.8 per cent said they feared that more people would be losing their jobs in the next few years. This gloomy outlook was borne out by the Government's most recent assessment that Hong Kong's unemployment rate had reached an all-time high of 2.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Another 1.4 per cent are underemployed, meaning they involuntarily work less than 35 hours a week. Theories for a shrinking job market abound. They include companies' reluctance to expand until the transition has been achieved smoothly, the removal of operations to Asian or Chinese cities because of uncertainty or rising costs and an inflow of foreign workers. Unionists have blamed much of the trouble on the Government's imported labour scheme, which they say puts Hong Kong people looking for work on an unlevel playing field. The ADPL's poll also found that people are tightening their purse strings in the light of declining economic growth and higher inflation rate. The poll was conducted between April 28 and May 3 in areas where most of Hong Kong's service and manufacturing sectors are located. These include Central, Causeway Bay, Yau Tsim Mong, Shamshuipo, Wong Tai Sin, Kwun Tong, Tuen Mun and Sai Kung. The ADPL found 67.8 per cent of the respondents, or 774 people, believed that the territory's unemployment rate would keep rising. Only 4.4 per cent said they expected a fall in the rate. ADPL's economic affairs spokesman, Dr Law Cheung-kwok, said the results were 'shocking'. 'This shows that a lot of people don't have any sense of job security,' he said. 'Hong Kong people also realise all companies, no matter whether they are large, small or foreign investments, are laying off people.' Mr Law called on the Government to stop importing foreign labour and to introduce legislation forcing employers to give preference to local workers. A total of 50.3 per cent, or 573 people, believed that the inflation rate would go up in the next three months, while only four per cent said the rate would fall. The inflation rate shot up to 9.5 per cent for March and economists have warned the figure would keep surging. Mr Law said the Government should introduce measures to curb inflation. It should not keep approving charge or fare increases by public utility and public transport companies, he said. Many Hong Kong people did not believe the local property market had been brought under control as claimed by the Government. The survey showed 29.1 per cent thought that flat prices would continue to rise in the coming three months, while 16.2 per cent believed they would go down. When asked whether they would buy a flat before 1997 if they could afford one, 44.5 per cent said yes, and 44 per cent said no. Eight per cent of the respondents anticipated an increase in family income in the next three months, while 10.7 per cent expected a drop. Almost 65 per cent said they would not buy household appliances in the next three months. And almost 57 per cent said they would not take a holiday overseas in the next three months, which covers the summer exodus period.