World’s most expensive city increases minimum wage by measly 32 cents. Here’s all you need to know

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In Hong Kong, the world’s most expensive city, the government has recently announced an increase in the city’s minimum wage, but it is so low that for those struggling to make ends meet, it’ll hardly do anything.

According to an Al Jazeera report, the minimum wage in Hong Kong has been raised by 2.50 Hong Kong dollars or USD 32 cents. The hike has brought the city’s minimum wage to 40 Hong Kong dollars (or $5.10) per hour. 

The measly 6.25 per cent raise comes after a four-year freeze and it has left activists and community workers scathing.

Wong Shek-hung, director of the Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan program at the charitable organisation Oxfam, has expressed concern.

“We think this is unacceptable,” he said, adding “It cannot cover basic needs in Hong Kong.”

According to CNN, the minimum wage in Hong Kong was frozen in 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city’s economy. Authorities at the time argued that a wage increase would put additional pressure on enterprises and could lead to the loss of low-wage jobs. 

However, Wong argues that this increase will make little difference for the low-paid workers in Hong Kong. 

The high cost of living in the city, particularly when it comes to housing, remains. He said that he believes that the increase is not sufficient to cover the basic needs of low-paid workers in the city. 

Oxfam has expressed concern that the recent increase in Hong Kong’s minimum wage is still lower than what a family of two would receive through the city’s social security program. 

It has called on the government to raise the minimum wage to at least HK$45.4 ($5.78) per hour. The organisation has described the recent increase in the minimum wage as “almost negligible” and has urged the government to take further action to address the challenges faced by low-paid workers in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Society of Community Organizations (SOCO) has also proposed a higher minimum wage of at least HK$53.4 ($6.8) per hour, which it believes would provide a more adequate standard of living for low-paid workers.

In January, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Chris Sun, rejected the argument that the minimum wage should be raised to the same level as social welfare payments. He argued that “many people…would rather work than receive social welfare because they think it has more value in their lives.”

“After all, do people like to go to work or not? In fact, going to work is not just for earning money. It is important to one’s spirit and health,” said Sun said, as per Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK. 

“So the two can’t be compared. One is welfare, the other is work.”

According to Sun, going to work is not just about earning money, but also has a positive impact on one’s spirit and health. He claimed that social welfare and work cannot be compared because they serve different purposes.

Sun’s comments highlight the ongoing debate over the minimum wage and social welfare policies in Hong Kong. While some argue that the minimum wage should be raised to ensure that low-paid workers can earn a decent living, others believe that social welfare should provide a safety net for those who cannot earn enough through work.

(With inputs from agencies)

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