Many are still in work, despite the Covid-19-induced recession, because of government support for employers or sacrifices such as taking leave without pay. So it is no time to be expecting a pay rise. If there is any exception, it would have to be those on the minimum wage, mostly the cleaners and security workers we cannot do without. There are about 20,000 of them, or 0.7 per cent of a workforce of 3.5 million. They earn HK$37.50 an hour. They are due for a two-yearly adjustment, if any, next year. Their representatives in the Minimum Wage Commission are asking for HK$39. Employer representatives say this would be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many businesses struggling to stay afloat. They want a freeze or at most a 50 HK cents rise. These are the worst of times. But even in better times employers’ and workers’ representatives find it difficult to reconcile their positions. The government will have to make the final decision. Both sides are applying pressure. Workers’ representatives say a HK$1.50 rise for 20,000 or so workers across the economy would hardly break the bank. Employers remain concerned about capacity to pay and likely demands for a flow-on to those paid a little more than the minimum. The perfect decision would please everyone and assist economic recovery. The bottom line is to avoid impeding recovery. People on the minimum wage make ends meet only after tax and government support measures. While many are in essential occupations, there are not enough of them to make much impact on the economy with more money in their pockets. Pay freeze for Hong Kong’s domestic helpers amid Covid-19 slump There are many more domestic helpers, at about 370,000, but they send money home rather than spend it here. Given that helpers’ employers are numerically powerful and the helpers politically powerless, and that their wages are reviewed annually, it was an easier decision for the government to deny helpers a rise this year. On the other hand, Covid-19 means the duties of many helpers are harder as their employers work from home and expect more of domestic hygiene. If officials were to deny an increase for the lowest paid, and in the unlikely event strong economic growth were to resume sooner rather than later, they could leave open an avenue for revisiting their decision.