Hong Kong As It Is

Nine years on, Hong Kong finally has it

Nine years ago, Yin Man-on, aged 67, worked 14 hours a day for HK$7 (not even US$1) an hour at a public toilet. He also lived in the toilet. His boss was a contractor working for the government, who allowed Yin to leave the toilet only for two one-hour meal breaks. The boss threatened to fire him if he was caught leaving the toilet outside of these two break times.

This case, when exposed in the media, had sparked the minimum wage movement in Hong Kong, but until today, there is no legislation in Hong Kong yet on minimum wage, though a minimum wage bill is set to be passed this summer. The pro-business government did not want a minimum wage law until very recent years. It launched a voluntary “wage protection movement” in 2006 but received a lukewarm response. Consequently it turned to a minimum wage bill for all occupations.

What will be Hong Kong’s minimum wage then? The unions want HK$33 (US$4.2) an hour but this is very unlikely given the strong opposition and the influence of the business sector, which seems to accept a level not higher than HK$24 (US$3).

You must have come across a 7-Eleven convenience store in Hong Kong, The workers there earn an average of HK$23.4 (US$3) an hour, with the lowest paid workers earning HK$20 (US$2.6) an hour, according to a recent survey. Another convenience store chain Circle K and supermarket chain Welcome offer their staff $23.9 (US$3.1) an hour. How can you possibly “live” with that paltry wage in a city as expensive as Hong Kong?

Securities guards and cleaners are also among the city’s lowest paid workers.

By Anna

With a wanderlust and lusts of other sorts, I look to sth new, sth different, sth fulfilling, and find myself on a journey...

3 replies on “Nine years on, Hong Kong finally has it”

thanks! the typo has been corrected. you are right about the 7-Eleven people. but on the other hand, they must be and are trained to be. in fact, this applies to all the low paid jobs – those working in supermarkets, fast food chains and those security guards are all polite and helpful but they all are earning a meager salary.

A slight typo there – “with the lowest paid workers earning HK$2o (US$2.6) a day” – should be $20 per hour.

$20 per hour = $160 per day assuming 8 hour work day, 6 day work week means around $4,000 per month. Given the cost of living in HK, in real terms these people are earning less than factory workers in Shenzhen.

And yet, the people working in 7-Eleven are generally really nice, polite and helpful, much more pleasant to be around than the bankers earning 50 times that amount. Go figure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *