WONG Yee-mei is unemployed. Having sewed in a San Po Kong textile factory for over a decade, the mother of two had to quit her job in September. The clothing plant is moving its operation to China. Today, the 35-year-old wants, and needs, work. 'Being out of work has put pressure on both myself and the family,' said Ms Wong, who lives in a Lam Tin public housing estate. 'I need the job to keep me occupied during the day and the money to make ends meet. 'I could have held on to my job, but having been off regular employment since Lunar New Year when part of the factory began to move across the border, what's the use? I'll lose it eventually. 'My husband is a carpenter working on contract so there is no guarantee he will always have work. I am quite happy to take up any job. I'm sure there are jobs in other industries for people like me.' She is in for a big surprise. According to official statistics, Ms Wong is a typical unemployed person seeking work. They are aged between 30 and 45, are Form Three educated or below, and have lost their job in the declining manufacturing sector. With the unemployment rate at 3.5 per cent (seasonally adjusted), the highest in 11 years, economists say the estimated 110,000 jobless figure is a result of economic restructuring: Hong Kong is shifting from a manufacturing to a service base. Some say full employment will return once the rising demand for services in transportation, banking, insurance, marketing and accountancy creates work for those made unemployed in the clothing and electronics industries. In practice, with most unemployed in Hong Kong uneducated, or with families, they may be unable to take on jobs in the service sector. In Ms Wong's case, despite her enthusiasm (she is currently taking a course in English to upgrade her language skills) the move is even more difficult than economists suggest. With only a primary school education, Ms Wong is not qualified for most clerical jobs. She also attended a month-long course in office assistant work, organised by the Employees Retraining Board, but that did little to help. But Ms Wong believes she still stands a good chance of finding a job that requires few qualifications. According to the Quarterly Report of Employment, Vacancies and Payroll Statistics, published by the Census and Statistic Department, there are still plenty of vacancies in the retail sector and hotel industry. To find out whether it was possible for her to change career successfully, the South China Morning Post matched her with a job in the hotel industry, a sector well known for its acute labour shortage. Catalina Law, the director of human resources at the Regent Hotel, said she was always looking for people to work as waiters in the food and beverage section where there is a high turnover. 'These positions don't need anyone with qualifications. All the applicants need to possess is some practical English, a good attitude and a pleasant disposition,' Mrs Law explained. 'And like most big hotels, we also provide training for our staff so those hired can learn their trade as they work.' Ms Wong appeared a promising candidate. She is pleasant, polite, enthusiastic, and tidy. But the catch lies in the working hours - waiters work shifts. This week, reluctantly, Ms Wong turned down the job offer. 'The money, working environment and fringe benefits all sound good. But with my two daughters, aged three and six, I really cannot work irregular hours,' she said. 'Though I can leave my children with their grandmother as a short-term solution, I don't want this to be a permanent arrangement. I have to be there with my children during examination time. 'Also, being a waitress requires me to stand up all day long, which is more physically demanding than my sewing job.' Mrs Law was not surprised by Ms Wong's decision. The chairman of the human resources development committee of the Hong Kong Hotels' Association said there was a disparity between the work offered in the hotel industry and the labour released from manufacturing industry. 'It is not so much the nature of the job, but the irregular hours that former factory workers have problems with,' she said. 'They refuse to take on a new working time schedule. Hotels are a 24-hour business.' The hotel industry is not the only sector suffering a chronic shortage of manpower. According to the Retail Management Association (RMA), the retail industry is still unable to recruit enough staff, despite the high unemployment figure. Like the hotel industry, a job in the retail business means working long hours and at weekends - a factor which puts off many job seekers. 'Retailers have been using all available means for job recruitment such as advertising in newspapers, working with the Labour Department job matching schemes and the Retraining Board - and still with no success,' a RMA statement says. 'There is simply not enough available or suitable local workforce for the retail industry. The industry should not be penalised for the outcome of poor manpower planning by the government.' SINCE unemployment figures began to creep up earlier this year, the government has identified the sectors of society affected. According to the latest Quarterly Report on General Household Survey (April to June 1995), the estimated number of unemployed was 90,600. More men than women were out of work, with over half aged between 20 and 39. Those with no schooling were worst hit. Of the 83,400 unemployed who had a previous job, over half had been dismissed or laid off. Figures provided by the Labour Department, based on information given by those registered for its job matching programme (JMP), show a similar picture. Set up in April, the JMP is a government initiative to combat rising unemployment. It provides job placement services to the unemployed aged 30 or above. According to its latest findings, about two-thirds of job-seekers registered under the programme are female and about two-thirds received education at Form Three or below. About half worked in the manufacturing sector with the majority in the clothing and electronics industries. Most took on jobs such as clerks, office assistants, labourers, watchmen, and in sales, with salaries ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Of the 3,856 registered for the JMP, 1,739 found employment, while 648 declined offers. Its success rate is 62 per cent. Matching those made redundant in the manufacturing industry with the right job is not easy. The problem does not lie in retraining workers, but the jobs on offer simply do not fit the unemployeds' expectations or lifestyles. According to the Labour Department, some job-seekers are very choosy. Chiu Sin-mou, primary school educated, has been a carpenter for about 20 years and has worked as a casual labourer since early in 1994. The 56-year-old registered for the JMP last month. During his interview with the placement officer, Mr Chiu refused to take up carpentry jobs on airport projects - the work was too far from his home. Eventually, Mr Chiu agreed to be interviewed for two posts, one as a carpenter for a furniture and decoration company. The pay was $450 a day. Mr Chiu was offered the job, but even after the employer had increased the daily rate to $500, he still turned it down on the grounds that the wages were below the market rate. The Labour Department said: 'According to the 1995 manpower survey of the building and civil engineering industry conducted by the Vocational Training Council, over 70 per cent of the carpenters/joiners interviewed received a salary ranging from $10,001 to $15,000. 'Besides, the wages offered are $13,000, which is above the expected salary.' A recent study into the rising unemployment rate commissioned by employers' organisations, including the Employers' Federation of Hong Kong and the General Chamber of Commerce, urged the unemployed to be more flexible in the type of job they will take, its location and salary level. But it is not simple. Alice Liu, employment training officer at Christian Action, said many unemployed workers, especially the uneducated, needed time to adjust to their new circumstances. 'It's not their fault they are unemployed, but they must understand that for economic reasons they must find a job. 'While some are prepared to take on any job, others can be extremely choosy,' she said. 'Those with little education or who have children are unlikely to apply for jobs in the service sector. Then there are those who simply would not take on jobs like cleaning toilets. 'You have to give them encouragement and explain this is just the first step. 'It's really up to the unemployed to give themselves a chance. We can only give them support and advice, the rest is up to the persons themselves.'