Hong Kong finance chief keeping ‘close eye’ on labour market as unemployment rises to 3.4pc
With budget granted passage at second reading, John Tsang Chun-wah also called on lawmakers to pass Appropriation Bill quickly
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said the slight rise in the city’s unemployment rate is “an important signal from the market”.
In a speech delivered at the Legislative Council to conclude the second reading of this year’s budget, Tsang said that while the labour market is stable overall, the unemployment rate has reached a new high since late 2013.
According to the latest government statistics, unemployment went up by 0.1 of a percentage point to 3.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
“Unemployment rates in the retail, accommodation and restaurant sectors in particular have experienced [a] more significant increase ... I will keep a close eye on the decrease in demand for labour in relevant sectors,” he said.
During the speech, Tsang also stated that if lawmakers did not pass the budget by the end of May, government departments and public bodies would face a resource shortage, making it difficult for the administration to implement policies that aim to help the public.
Last month, lawmakers granted HK$90.45 billion in temporary funding to the government, which will be enough to sustain operations until the end of May.
On Tuesday, Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing stated he expected lawmakers to start voting on this year’s budget on May 11.
“I urge all lawmakers to take into account the overall interests of society and pass the 2016 Appropriation Bill as soon as possible so that these measures can be implemented soon,” the financial secretary said.
Tsang’s call came as lawmakers granted passage to this year’s budget at the second reading. Forty-six endorsed the government blueprint and 11 voted against it, with no abstentions.
Meanwhile, speaking at a forum in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office deputy director Zhou Bo called on various sectors in Hong Kong to reduce internal bickering and create an environment conducive to further development.