Wages on the rise and jobs growing: government chief The government economist has countered claims that the economic recovery has yet to penetrate down to the grassroots. Kwok Kwok-chuen yesterday said most wages were on the rise and job opportunities were also growing. While he conceded that some low-end jobs were still suffering from wage cuts, the improving economy enabled workers to take up jobs with better salaries. 'I'm not being [overly] optimistic. I am just speaking from an objective perspective,' he said. Speaking on Commercial Radio, the government's chief economic adviser sought to dispel fears that Hong Kong would be marginalised as the mainland modernised. Major rival cities such as Shanghai would be unable to take over Hong Kong's leading position in the next 10 years, he said. He said mainland systems and regulations were still 'at the stage of a developing country'. 'I'm not underestimating Shanghai's potential. But it takes time to develop into a financial centre,' he said. Claims had been made that there were fundamental problems with the economic structure, but Mr Kwok believed the troubles Hong Kong had suffered over the past years were more cyclical. 'It's true that there are structural problems that we have to address. But I think we were just going through a very serious economic downturn,' he said. Despite growing concern over Hong Kong's ageing population, he said figures showed the median age of the working population had risen by only four years, to 39, in the past 10 years. Speaking at the weekly City Forum yesterday, lawmakers of different parties were split on whether the financial secretary should immediately grant tax relief in light of the $14 billion surplus. While the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party are adamant that salaries tax should be restored to the 2002-03 level to ease the financial burden of the middle class, the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong opted for a one-off rates exemption. DAB legislator Chan Kam-lam said Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen stopped short of any commitment when the party raised the proposal with him a few days ago. 'He said he would consider the idea. Although he didn't make any promise, we think there is still room,' Mr Chan said.