Hong Kong exporters are bracing for a rise in Guangzhou's minimum wage, with factory owners in the Pearl River Delta saying there is growing speculation it will be raised to as high as 1,000 yuan (HK$1,135) a month, up from 860 yuan. A rise of that magnitude - 16 per cent - would align Guangzhou's minimum pay with that of Shenzhen, which has among the highest salaries on the mainland. Hongkongers own an estimated 50,000 factories on the mainland employing an estimated 12 million workers, a legacy of Beijing's policy of opening up to foreign investors in the late 1970s. 'There is talk among government officials about the increase,' said Leon Lam Hing-chau, chief financial officer of Pacific Textiles Holdings, which produces mid- to high-end fabric at its production base in the Panyu district of Guangzhou. A pay rise would add to the operating costs of manufacturers, which are still battling the repercussions of the global financial crisis. However, bigger pay packets are good news for tens of millions of migrant workers and would support the central government's hopes of increasing domestic consumption. Dennis Ng Wang-pun, who runs a jewellery factory in Panyu, said he had heard talk of a possible wage increase, but made the point labour shortages had been so severe over the past couple of years that many factories were already paying more than the minimum requirement. 'Any increase below 10 per cent is manageable for factory owners, but a sharper increase will be damaging,' Ng said. 'There have been more orders recently, but this is an illusion of a turnaround in exports.' Toy and electronics makers reported a stronger inflow of orders last month, but Ng said the orders would usually have been placed earlier in the year. Federation of Hong Kong Industries chairman Cliff Sun Kai-lit warned the central government not to withdraw too early measures designed to help factory owners, such as the freezing of administrative charges and corporate contributions to social welfare funds. 'The global financial crisis has not yet bottomed out,' Sun said. 'Exporters are still recuperating from the export slump.' He said Shenzhen municipal government officials had reached 'an internal consensus' to keep the minimum wage unchanged for another year. The minimum wage was frozen last year to help manufacturers battered by the downturn following a directive by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in November 2008. Nelson Siu Nai-sun, the president of the Hong Kong Professionals and Executives Association, a human resources body with 2,500 corporate members in Hong Kong and the mainland, said a rise in the minimum wage in Guangdong was necessary because of rising living standards and looming inflation. 'There is a genuine need to raise it, otherwise workers can't catch up with rapidly rising living standards,' Siu said. 'It will also be an incentive to lure migrant workers back to the south.' He anticipates Guangdong's minimum wage could jump between 10 per cent and 20 per cent a year for the next few years. The last rise was in 2008, when the rate rose 12.9 per cent. Siu said labour shortages had worsened in Guangdong since October after a larger than expected number of orders caught factories off guard.