SCMP Saturday, January 6, 2001

Low-pay group grows to 450,000


The number of people earning less than $6,000 a month has increased 14.6 per cent over the past three years, reaching 450,400 in the second quarter of last year.
But the Government said the number of employees earning less than $4,000 a month had dropped slightly, to 71,200, with half of them part-time workers.
The figures were far better than unionist legislator Chan Yuen-han's estimation of more than 600,000 on less than $4,000, the Government said.
In the paper submitted to legislators yesterday, the data collected by the Census and Statistics Department found that in the second quarter of last year, about 655,400 employees earned less than $6,000 a month, with 205,000 of them foreign domestic helpers. The figure in 1997 was 393,000 local employees. Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said the increase reflected that more people had suffered in the economic downturn. He said the problem was critical, because about 15 per cent of three million employees belonged to the low-income group.
Mr Lee said other employees had been forced to work longer hours to avoid salary cuts. He called for the introduction of a minimum wage and a ceiling on weekly working hours.