After a long discussion by the Labour Advisory Board, the government has decided to put aside the legislation of setting up the contractual working hours and standard working hours. To take a new move, it has planned to introduce working hours’ guidance for 11 industries by 2020 instead of solving the problem through legislation. Obviously, the Hong Kong Government has the lack of courage to solve the problem and is constantly urged to respond to the public. It makes use of market pressure through introducing the working hours’ guidelines to the employers and the manpower market and also it uses for the community to draw a line to the issue in different industries. As one of the "ants", I am disappointed with the attitude of the Hong Kong government which has an oversight on the idea of work and life balance today. Despite the contradictions in the legislative work on standard working hours, some common concern on the issue should not be over- worried.
Minimum Wage legislation sees the strong survival in market
Similarly, to protect the bargaining power of low-skilled labor, the hourly minimum wage legislation also attracted some opposite voices before implementing. These include the amount of minimum wage per hour which leads to a direct increase in the cost of the business sector and consequently a soar in the unemployment rate. However, the minimum wage has been implemented for seven years. According to the latest release of the unemployment rate, it has remained at a low level of 2.9%. This shows that Hong Kong's workplace has a certain capacity to digest. The solution to the social problems should be dependable on the Government's determination, the subsidy proposed to the workers and the support of the business sector. We observe that, after the minimum wage legislation, Hong Kong's competitiveness remains unchanged. According to the “World Competitiveness Annual Report 2018", reviewing more than 60 places around the world, Hong Kong's ranking can maintain in a leading position, showing that the challenge of minimum wage legislation to the market can be tackled. Therefore, the Government should not underestimate the foundation and the development of the Hong Kong economy. Instead, the SAR must pay more attention to the protection of employees' benefits in order to reduce the wastage rate of the labour market and consolidate the potential of Hong Kong's economic development.
Productivity should not only depend on not working hours ?
According to a British consultant's survey of GDP and working hours last year, the most productive city in the world is Luxembourg but its total working hours have been reduced for two consecutive years, from 1,643 hours in 2016 to 1512 hours last year. Therefore, the number of working hours does not necessarily have a positive relationship with the productivity, rather, the company's job training for employees and the ability to utilize human resources in the market.
According to the Census and Statistics Department, the total labour force in Hong Kong has continued to rise. It has increased by 4,900 in two months since March 2018. It shows that there is no shortage of labour in the market, which will also add new impetus to the workplace. Employers are encouraged to make good use of the manpower, hiring them to become contract or part-time employees. If the standard working hours policy implements, they can complement the current full-time employees in specific working hours or during the holiday compensation arrangements. I believe this will have a positive impact on the productivity among companies. Therefore, the Government's consideration of the standard working hours does not have to worry too much about the business sector. On the contrary, it should strive for more time and learning opportunities for the "wage earners" to increase their competitiveness in the workplace which, in the long run, can develop the overall economic development.
As a public servant of the public, the Government, should not put commercial development at the expense of public interests. Rather, it should support the concept of "work-life balance". Regrettably, the current government headed by Carrie Lam may not put the issue in the priority in these years and prefer to focus on the offsetting of MPF instead. However, the issue of Standard working hours has already discussed entire government term. Now it is left to be implemented in the next session. I am afraid that the physical and mental health of employees, as well as, the support of government working efficiency are deteriorating.