Almost a quarter of workers with mental or physical disabilities have lost their jobs since the introduction of the minimum-wage law last May, according to a survey. In the same period, new jobs for mentally and physically handicapped people have dropped by around 20 per cent, the study by the department of social work at Chinese University has found. 'The reasons are unclear, but in reality, the negative employment effect is a fact. The government needs to be concerned about the issue,' said Wong Hung, the leading researcher on the study and an assistant professor in the department. The employment status of workers with disabilities was a major debating point during the lead-up to establishing the statutory wage floor of HK$28 an hour, with some groups expressing concerns that the widely-discriminated-against group could not compete with the mainstream workforce for the same level of pay. The government later succumbed to the views and allowed workers and their bosses to negotiate for a transitional period where disabled workers could receive the original pay set before the wage law. The workers could also demand an assessment of their capabilities when setting a suitable income level, which could deviate from the standard hourly rate. However, according to Wong, only a tiny portion of the workers with disabilities have completed the capability assessments, with most of them agreeing to receive the original pay. Wong's study found that the median wage for the disabled increased from HK$24.90 an hour to HK$30.60 after the law came into effect. He said that the government must introduce laws requiring employers to hire those with disabilities, as this was normal practice in developed economies. The university study, conducted from 2009 to the end of last year, interviewed more than 600 people from four underprivileged groups, including new immigrants, dole recipients as well as families that make less than HK$5,000 a month. They were asked about changes to income levels as well as employment status before and after the minimum wage became law. For the disabled group, 22 per cent said that they had lost their jobs, while there were no mass sackings among the three other groups, Wong said. Wong called on the government to increase the minimum wage level based on inflationary factors in the past two years, adding that HK$35 an hour would barely meet today's needs. The government is set to review the mandatory wage floor, which was established based on economic data collected a few years ago. The Chinese University study was sponsored by the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong government.