Oxfam Hong Kong releases survey on Minimum Wage and Standard Working Hours

2010-05-19

Over 70% of Hong Kong residents support a minimum wage sufficient to support workers and their families
More than 60% believe the hourly wage should be HK$30 or more

HONG KONG 19 May 2010: Oxfam Hong Kong today published the results of its survey on Minimum Wage and Standard Working Hours, indicating that more than 70 per cent of Hong Kong residents support a minimum wage which enables workers to support a family, while over 60 per cent believe the hourly wage should be set at HK$30 or more. Oxfam Hong Kong makes four recommendations: that the minimum wage must be sufficient to cover the basic living expenses of employees and their dependent family members; that the wage level be reviewed annually to reflect the changing commodity prices and economic conditions; that legislation should be set for maximum working hours; that poverty within the workforce be adequately addressed with a macro-economic plan.

The survey was conducted in early May by the Public Opinion Study Group of the University of Hong Kong with 509 Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above over the phone. Oxfam Hong Kong also commissioned the University to conduct two previous surveys on the Minimum Wage in May 2005 and May 2008.

 

SUMMARY OF MAY 2010 SURVEY:
Opinions on setting a minimum wage:

1) More than 70 per cent (72%) of the respondents agree that the goal of the minimum wage should be “to reduce the rich-poor gap and ensure a basic living for all employed people and their families”. In contrast, 13 per cent held opposing views. These opinions were determined by an additional question in the 2010 study on the goal of the legislation. .

2) Over 80 per cent (80%) of the respondents believe that the “basic living needs of a family” should be taken into account when setting the minimum wage level. An additional question was included in the 2010 survey on the factors which should be taken into consideration when setting the minimum wage level: “the basic living needs of a family” (81%), “inflation and commodity prices index” (76%) and “the overall economic condition” (66%). The option selected by the fewest people was “business competitiveness” (44%).

3) More than 70 per cent (72%) of respondents agree that a minimum wage can guarantee basic living standards for workers. Most respondents (72%) believe that minimum wage legislation is a way of “guaranteeing workers' basic living standards”, a higher percentage than in 2008 (69%) and 2005 (59%). Other responses include “promoting a harmonious society” (15%), “reducing the chance of exploitation by employers” (14%) and “alleviating the disparity between rich and poor people” (11%).

4) More than 60 per cent (61%) of the respondents believe that the minimum hourly wage level should be set at HK$30 or above. An additional question was included in the study on the hourly wage level:  3% of respondents believe that the hourly wage should be set at HK$20-$24; 12% believe it should be HK$25; 16% at a level of HK$26-29, 35% at HK$30, 11% at HK$31-34, 9% at HK$35-39, and 6% at HK$40 or more.
In addition, the average monthly wage considered reasonable is HK$8,856 (8 working hours per day, 6 days per week), an increase from the results of 2005 (HK$8,042) and 2008 (HK$8,401).

5) Nearly 80 per cent (79%) of respondents agree that the minimum wage level should be reviewed annually. An additional question was included in the survey on reviewing minimum wage levels, with 79% of respondents agreeing on an annual review, and 13% disagreeing.

 

Comments on legislation on standard working hours:
6) Over 60 per cent (65%) of the respondents support legislation on maximum working hours. Over 80 per cent (89%) that the problem of overtime work in Hong Kong is “severe”. Nearly two-thirds support maximum working hours legislation, with the average suggested number of hours per week being 50, similar to the figures for 2005 (51 hours) and 2008 (49 hours).

 

Oxfam Hong Kong's recommendations
Oxfam Hong Kong believes that a decent standard of living is a basic right. Workers should be fairly paid, so that they can rely on their own efforts for making a living and they can enjoy the benefits of economic development. This is the cornerstone of a fair society and for sustainable development. We recommend: 

1) The goal of minimum wage legislation should be to “reducing the rich-poor gap and ensuring a basic living for all employed people and their families”. The study indicates there is a consensus among Hong Kong people that a minimum wage should be sufficient to support the living of a worker and his/her family. According to the Census and Statistics Department (2009), the average number of people in a Hong Kong household is 2.9, with the average workforce per household 1.5; that is, one employed person generally has to support two people including himself/herself.  Thus, Oxfam Hong Kong believes that the minimum wage must be sufficient to cover the basic living expenses of employees and their dependent family members.

2) The government should review the level of the minimum wage on an annual basis, in order to ensure that it accurately reflects changes in commodity prices and economic conditions. The setting of a minimum wage level should take into account the factors of the “basic living needs of the family” and the “income gap between rich and poor people”, in addition to the four factors advocated by the Hong Kong SAR Government: “inflation and commodity price index”, “overall economic condition”, “business competitiveness” and “labour market situation”.

3) The government should consider maximum working hours legislation, to ensure that workers can have a reasonable balance between work and home life.

4) The government should tackle the serious problems of employment poverty with a macro-economic development plan. This should be combined with training, employment policies (such as subsidies for community economy plans to promote district-wide employment) and financial policies (such as taxation and tax incentives). This is necessary to facilitate structural intervention and positive change for Hong Kong working poor.

 

Background on the Survey:
The survey was conducted on the 5th and 6th of May 2010 with 509 residents of Hong Kong aged 18 or above. Respondents were interviewed on the telephone. The overall response ratio was 77 per cent, with a standard error of 2.2 per cent; that is, under a 95 per cent confidence interval, the sampling error of all results should be less than ± 4 per cent.