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Tuesday, November 1, 2016, 01:01

HKFTU: Wages rose by only 0.5% in last 11 years

By Li Yinze

HONG KONG - Overall wages in Hong Kong increased by only 0.5 percent in real terms in the past 11 years, the city's largest union group revealed on Monday.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) found that wages had increased by 45.7 percent in nominal terms since 2004. Taking out inflation, however, there was almost no improvement in real salaries for the local workforce.

Overall wages in Hong Kong have increased by only 0.5 percent in real terms since 2004, the city's largest union group revealed

Figures for the city’s GDP and Hang Seng Index saw cumulative increases of 82 percent and 99 percent, respectively, since 2004. Yet the downward trend in real incomes was observed in several industries including manufacturing, transport, import and export, the wholesale and retail trades, and financing and insurance, HKFTU Vice-Chairman Chow Luen-kiu said.

Real salaries of some sectors even dropped to the lowest level since the outbreak of SARS in the city in 2003. The transport industry saw the sharpest drop in workers’ real income, down by about 10 percent from 2003 to 2015, Chow added.

Lawmaker Michael Luk Chung-hung said the labor forces had not been able to share the fruits of Hong Kong’s economic prosperity, notwithstanding the gradual growth in the overall economy.

“Hong Kong faces many challenges in upgrading working people’s wages, due to the high costs of business and the city's mono-industrial structure,” Luk explained.

He suggested Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying should expand the Earn and Learn Pilot Scheme in his next Policy Address, in which participants can earn a steady income offered by the government or the participating industries while acquiring knowledge and developing skills.

In the construction industry, there is a "first hire, then train" mechanism, which encourages contractors to hire trainees to gain experience on construction sites. Chow said the model can be a good example to attract young people who are interested in developing a career in relevant trades.

“We should bring hope to young generations,” Chow added, “and we need to prove to them that they do have a bright future in these industries.”
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