The government has been urged to introduce the minimum wage law as soon as possible to help low-income families, as the number of working poor households is expected to rise. Last year, there were 204,500 working poor households - representing 10 per cent of the 2 million households in Hong Kong - and there already were 207,300 in the first half of this year. Chua Hoi-wai, business director of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, called for the government to introduce a minimum wage law as early as possible and in the interim continue its transport subsidies for the working poor who had to travel a long way to work. Some 75.5 per cent of people in working poor households had full-time jobs, but they still suffered from poverty because of low monthly incomes. The number of working poor households, who had an average family income of HK$3,000 last year, was slightly above the 203,200 in 1998. Mr Chua said the minimum wage should be at least HK$6,000 to protect low-income earners. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is widely expected to include the government's position on statutory minimum pay in his policy address on Wednesday. The council, which co-ordinates the work of about 350 social welfare agencies, used Census and Statistics Department figures to further analyse the status of the working poor. The analysis found that 47.2 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 in working poor households had a job, more than 10 percentage points below the 58 per cent for the overall working population. Mr Chua attributed the lower figure to family responsibilities in working poor households, which limited their ability to look for jobs. 'Every two family members of these households have to support one elderly person or a child, but the average ratio is three to one. They cannot go out to work, or look for work, due to heavier family dependencies,' he said. 'It is more difficult for them to find jobs in the competitive labour market because of their lower education levels.' Of 183,000 full-time workers in these households, 32 per cent were paid HK$6,000 a month or below, while some 29 per cent had HK$6,000 to HK$8,000 in monthly pay.