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Saturday, October 17, 2015, 11:38

Construction workers get 10% pay raise

By Shadow Li in Hong Kong

The city’s 200,000 construction workers are expected to get an average 10 percent pay raise next month, the city’s biggest construction workers union announced on Friday.

This is the eighth year in a row that construction workers will get a pay raise. In most years, they get an increase of more than 5 percent, the usual pay raise enjoyed by the city’s white collar workers.

Speaking to reporters, Chairman of Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union Chow Luen-kiu said salaries for workers would continue to increase for the coming three years. This is because the city is expecting a busy construction period.

Three trades which have been hit the hardest by the labor shortage are attempting to fight back with significant pay raises in double digits.

Framework craftsmen, with the highest pay raise of 17 percent, are expected to get a daily salary of HK$2,050.

Concrete workers came in second this year with a raise of 15 percent. But they still get the highest pay of HK$2,300 per day.

Also earlier in May, bar benders and fixers were awarded a pay raise of 12.9 percent. This means their salary is HK$1,930 per day.

Currently, apart from ceiling partition workers, which is a newly established trade, the city’s construction workers get at least HK$1,100 a day.

Chow, a veteran bricklayer, believed the pay raise could encourage more young people to join the industry. In the meantime, the union expected the industry to train more young skilled workers to address the problem of an aging workforce.

The overall construction expenditure in the city in 2014 was about HK$180 billion. The government is expected to increase the annual expenditure to HK$240 billion in the coming 10 years. With several mass infrastructure projects starting to roll out and driving the construction industry toward its peak, the city’s labor shortage is expected to become an even bigger challenge.

According to the Construction Worker Registration, there are some 358,802 registered construction workers in the city. But about 43 percent of them are over 50. Only less than 15 percent of them are under 30.

The tactic of offering higher pay rates is working — as some 30,000 people have joined the industry in recent years.

Despite the increase, skilled workers — around 102,000 people — only make up 35.8 percent of the entire construction labor force. Chow Luen-kiu estimates the industry still lacks about 10,000 skilled workers.

The union interviewed 4,730 frontline workers by phone and also through site visits during the past year. The raise was made after the union reached an agreement with contractors.
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