HK salaries 'only ones to rise in Asia'

Hong Kong is the only Asian economy where the salaries of workers and professionals have risen in cash terms over the past two years, a survey has found.

But the poll also revealed that bosses' salaries in the SAR have dropped compared to those of business chiefs in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, whose pay has risen over the same period.

The study, carried out by Corporate Resources Group, polled company staff from the shop-floor to the boardroom in nine Asian countries to find out how much cash they were taking home.

It put SAR wage rates across the board at the highest in the region, from workers at $62 per hour, to professionals at $215, to top managers at $486.

It warned that in terms of labour costs, the territory faced stiff competition for investment from Singapore, which was vying with Hong Kong to be the regional economic hub.

The survey concludes: 'Except for Hong Kong and China, the 1998 salary of all other countries is much lower than in 1996 in US dollar terms.

'Due to past rising wages and non-devaluation of the Hong Kong dollar, Hong Kong and China stand out as very expensive compared to other Asian countries.' But the Economist Intelligence Unit's chief economist, Ken Davies, cautioned that the survey might be too broad to make legitimate comparisons viable.

'A survey like this is very difficult to do because it is so broad and making comparisons can pose problems,' Mr Davies said. 'It is quite possible that overall in Hong Kong managers' salaries have dropped because of bonuses being cut and so forth.' A spokesman for Corporate Resources Group said the survey was purely about cash earnings, including bonuses.

It also predicted that net salaries in the territory would increase by three per cent next year. China, it said, would see a net salary increase of 5.6 per cent next year, whereas Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia would suffer net salary drops of around five per cent.

Other countries targeted by the survey were South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.