Financial secretary's comments on low-skilled workers' wages regrettable

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 October, 2015, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 October, 2015, 6:55pm

I agree with Alex Lo's comment made in his column ("Poor haven't a chance with John Tsang", October 27).

Lo referred to the Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's remark in his blog that a restaurant owner couldn't find anyone to do a dishwashing job in the city centre even if he offered HK$12,000 a month.

In a free market, a dishwasher is entitled to earn a wage which a restaurant owner is prepared to pay, and the latter is only willing to offer an amount which will enable him to find a taker.

Mr Tsang said "the market has a huge demand for such low-skilled labour, causing a continuous rise in salaries for these jobs, and increasing the burden on entrepreneurs".

It is regrettable that the financial secretary implied that low-skilled workers deserve a low wage. In a civilised society, employers should be prepared to offer decent wages to attract people to take up essential jobs which are tedious, unpleasant and obnoxious.

Thus it is wrong for the financial secretary to lament that these workers are demanding a level of salary which the job nature does not deserve and may put entrepreneurs out of business. Lo is right to point out the number one threat to businesses is not wages but rent. Mr Tsang should know that high rents and property prices kill businesses and deter entrepreneurs.

It is also about time Hong Kong people, including government officials, accepted that people who take up tedious and unpleasant work should be offered decent compensation.

Such a level of salary should not only reflect recognition for the employees' significant contribution but would enable their families to live with dignity, and not to have to rely on government welfare payments or the low wage income subsidy in order to make ends meet.

As Asia's world city, government officials should show respect to the contribution by low-skilled workers to the success of the economy, and should work hard to devise a system whereby these people can earn a decent livable wage and live with dignity.

To blame these people for demanding higher wages which they do not deserve is offensive as well as unconscionable.

Emily Lau, legislative councillor, New Territories East