While a minimum hourly wage may be the topic of the day, statistics that show 38,300 workers in Hong Kong toil more than 72 hours a week have sparked a call for a maximum limit to be set for the work week. Figures disclosed by the Census and Statistics Department yesterday show that three-quarters of the 2.78 million workers in the city work more than 40.6 hours a week. The median is 44.3 hours - half of all workers work more hours per week, and half work fewer. The government released the data from the 2009 Report on Annual Earnings and Hours Survey in response to a question from medical sector legislator Leung Ka-lau. Leung said work weeks in the city were among the world's longest. 'Hong Kong is a wealthy society, and people should strike a balance between work and leisure time,' he said, noting that many doctors in public hospitals work more than 60 hours a week. 'It is about time we started thinking of setting a maximum for work hours. Many developed countries did it a long time ago.' He said workers need not stop working when the ceiling was reached. 'In countries with such a system, workers can negotiate with employers for a better wage if they work more than the maximum hours. People who want to earn more by working harder can still do so,' Leung said. 'It is a fair system, and it can help improve the gap between the poor and the rich.' Confederation of Trade Unions vice-chairwoman Cheung Lai-ha agreed, saying: 'To help improve the low-income workers' livelihoods, we have to set a maximum work limit. Nowadays, many workers work long hours; their wage is so low and they do not have the bargaining power to ask for payment for overtime.' The survey, which will be a key reference in setting the statutory minimum wage, shows that restaurant workers have the longest median work week, 54 hours. The median for workers in real estate management, security and cleaning services is 48 hours, although 5 per cent of them have to work more than 72 hours a week. The median hourly wages of these two groups are among the lowest for all occupations, at HK$32.70 and HK$27.60, respectively. The median hourly wage for all workers in Hong Kong is HK$58.50. Maids, civil servants and the self-employed were excluded from the survey.