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Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 18:10

HK has longest working week of 71 cities

By Shadow Li
HK has longest working week of 71 cities

HONG KONG - Calls for setting limits on maximum weekly working hours received further backing on Wednesday - after a survey revealed Hong Kong employees have the longest working week out of 71 cities around the world.

This comes after calls in Hong Kong for the government to do more to help the SAR’s 3.6 million labor force achieve a better work-life balance.

Hong Kong employees have clocked up 50.1 hours each week, the highest among 71 cities in a survey by UBS, a banking group in Switzerland.

The survey examined 15 occupations and revealed that four of the top five busiest cities are in Asia – Hong Kong, Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangkok. The 18 cities with the lowest working hours are all in Europe.

The hours a Hong Kong employee typically works are 38 percent more than the global average of 36 hours and 23 minutes. London was ranked at No 17, with 33.5 working hours a week.

Associate Professor at the Department of Social Work at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Wong Hung finds the ranking not surprising, as Hong Kong’s service sector is a pillar industry and major contributor to GDP.

People in Beijing work about 37.8 hours a week, slightly more than the global average. Taipei – ranked No 8 in the survey – has an average of 41.2 working hours.

Unlike the Chinese mainland, where most employees can have their weekend off, a lot of Hong Kong people still have to work half days on Saturday, added Wong.

Wong believed that the minimum wage, which was first introduced in 2011 at HK$28 per hour and adjusted to HK$32.5 in 2015, has also contributed to the long working hours. The increase in the minimum wage can’t offset inflation, which will make employees work more hours to try to keep up with rising costs, said Wong.

He said the government should legislate on standard working hours, or at least cap the maximum weekly working hours.

“Employers might think standard working hours are an issue of cost or how the employees should be paid for overtime works. However, from employees’ point of view, it is more an issue of time that could have been spent with their families,” said Wong.

In Hong Kong, the second round of public consultation on standard working hours began on April 25, lasting three months. The issue has triggered heated debate for years. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made it one of his pledges during his election campaign to win the support of the labor sector.

The Standard Working Hours Committee, set up by Leung, has been plagued by disputes. Labor representatives, who demanded a 44-hour standard working week, have boycotted the committee’s work since December. They object to its proposal to only mandatorily require written employment contracts to specify the number of working hours, overtime arrangements and compensation, rather than to legislate on a universal number of standard working hours.

A report commissioned by the committee showed that reducing working hours would cost Hong Kong tens of thousands of jobs.

Paris ranks as the least busy city, with 30.8 working hours each week. Despite this, France is mulling a ban on out-of-hours emails to discourage work-related emails being sent and read.

In terms of paid leave, Hong Kong employees get 17 days of paid leave a year, more than five days less than the global average of 23 days. Shanghai employees enjoy the lowest paid leave with only 7 days annually, following Bangkok with 9 days and Beijing with 10 days, the survey showed.

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