Nearly half the business and opinion leaders in Hong Kong favour a statutory minimum wage set somewhere between HK$28.10 and HK$33, close to the level sought by unions, a SCMP/TNS survey shows. About three-quarters of the 1,000 respondents to the survey said they could live with an increase in operating costs of between 1.1 per cent and 5 per cent after the implementation of a minimum wage. More than half the respondents said they could accept increases in prices for products or services, pushed up by the introduction of a minimum wage. Unionist lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said the survey findings indicated that the city's business and opinion leaders endorsed the need for a minimum wage and had taken the negative impact of its implementation into account. But Stanley Lau Chin-ho, deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, warned that many people might find increases in prices in products unacceptable even if they told pollsters they thought they could accept them. Twenty-nine per cent of respondents considered an hourly minimum wage between HK$28.10 and HK$32.90 an appropriate wage level while 19 per cent favoured HK$33, the target at which unions are aiming. Another 11 per cent preferred a rate of more than HK$33 while 27 per cent considered an hourly rate of between HK$24.10 and HK$28 appropriate. Just 7 per cent opted for a rate of HK$24, which is backed by some business groups. One thousand opinion leaders and business decision makers from households with monthly incomes of more than HK$40,000 were interviewed between July 30 and August 9. The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that according to people familiar with minimum wage negotiations, employers and unionists have already made big compromises on their earlier positions - with unions saying they will accept HK$30 an hour and bosses HK$28 - and are not prepared to budge any further. A rate of HK$28 would mean a pay rise for 270,100 workers and cost about HK$2.95 billion a year. Hong Kong's gross domestic product last year was HK$1.63 trillion. The two sides are presenting their cases to the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission which has until the end of the month to recommend a wage level to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. Unions want a minimum hourly rate of no less than HK$33. Employers' groups claim that business is sustainable only if the rate is set at between HK$24 and HK$25. The median hourly wage of city workers is HK$58.50. Cleaning services, catering and security are ranked by the respondents to the survey as the top three industries which would be hit hard by implementation of a statutory minimum wage. Respondents are divided on whether a minimum wage will trigger inflation, with 45 per cent saying they believe it will. Forty per cent think otherwise. Of those respondents who expect implementation of a minimum wage will cause inflation, 23 per cent said they would find an increase in inflation of 1 per cent or below acceptable while 38 per cent would accept a range from 1.1 per cent to 2 per cent. A total of 56 per cent of all respondents said they would accept increases in prices for products or services after the implementation of a minimum wage, compared with 33 per cent saying they would not accept any increase. Some 64 per cent believe unemployment will increase after the implementation of a minimum wage, compared with 32.2 per cent who think otherwise. Among those who expect unemployment to increase, 57 per cent expect it to rise to between 4.7 per cent and 5.6 per cent. Twenty seven per cent believe it will jump to between 5.7 per cent and 6.6 per cent. Unemployment fell to 4.3 per cent last month, the lowest since December 2008. More than 83 per cent of respondents believe some elderly and disabled workers will lose their jobs if a minimum wage is introduced, while 14 per cent disagree. Respondents are divided on how often a minimum wage should be reviewed. About 47 per cent favour an annual review, as sought by unionists, while another 42 per cent want a review once every two years. Lau said the survey findings were in line with business groups' worries that the implementation of a minimum wage would result in inflation, more unemployment and cost increases. 'While more than half of the respondents said they can accept increases in prices for products, it would be another matter when they face actual increases in future,' said Lau, whose federation calls for an hourly rate of HK$24. Wong, a lawmaker from the Federation of Trade Unions, said he was pleased to learn that the majority of the respondents preferred an hourly rate over HK$28. 'Many people are ready to pay the price such as rising consumer price inflation and higher operating costs because of their support for a harmonious society and social justice,' he said.