More than 4,000 applications for the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund were received from April to November, up 40 per cent over the same period last year. According to figures from the Labour Department, there were 4,461 applications for the fund in the first eight months of this financial year, while only 3,134 applications were received in the same period last year - representing an increase of a little more than 42 per cent. The Labour Department said the fund's reserve stood at HK$1.46 billion at the end of November. The reserve rose from an accumulated deficit of HK$18.4 million by the end of the 2003-04 financial year to a surplus of HK$1.22 billion by the end of 2007-08. The department said that although the number of applications had increased in the current financial year, the increase so far was only moderate and there would probably be a lag before the full impact of the financial turmoil was felt. Speaking after a Labour Advisory Board meeting yesterday, employee representative Cheng Kai-ming expressed concern that the number of applications would increase sharply next year and the reserve might not be enough to meet demand. 'I think more workers will be sacked early next year, especially in the catering sector, amid the economic crisis,' he said. But employers' representative Ho Sai-chu said it was too early to say whether there was a need to increase the levy on employers to boost the fund's reserve. 'The increase in applications is still manageable,' he said. 'The insolvency fund board will closely monitor the situation to see if there is really a need to increase the levy. But I think it is still too early to say, as the fund still has a considerable amount in it.' Mr Ho also said increasing the levy for the fund's reserve might create fear in the labour market. 'If the levy is increased, then workers might think that massive layoffs are on the way,' he said. 'But the situation is really not that bad.'