Date
22 October 2017
Catering is one of the industries that often have problems finding enough workers. Photo: CNSA
Catering is one of the industries that often have problems finding enough workers. Photo: CNSA

Why imported labor shouldn’t be so dreadful

Unionists like to warn about the serious impact of any move to increase imported labor.

It typically includes downward pressure on wages, but employers who have difficulty filling vacancies think otherwise.

In a blog post on Sunday, Financial Secretary John Tsang talked about what he heard from a group of small and medium-sized enterprises last week.

They were as diverse as it gets — catering, retail, recycling, cleaning services and elderly care providers — but they had a common challenge: staff recruitment.

A restaurant operator told Tsang it could cost up to HK$12,000 (US$1,548) to hire someone to wash dishes, about the same amount it takes to fill an entry-level job that requires a college degree.

It is hardly news that many shun this laborious work; young people particularly consider them unattractive.

The law of supply and demand says employers have to pay up, and the situation will only get worse as the working population ages.

While wage increases are a good thing in the sense that these can spur consumption, they’re liable to sour up businesses if they keep rising.

Small operators may have no choice but to shut down. When that happens on a big scale, the local economy could be at risk, Tsang warned.

Tsang is watching the situation closely. He said he will respond with the appropriate policy if necessary.

He didn’t say what measures he might take. Perhaps labor import rules could be relaxed in certain industries to relieve the pressure.

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RA

EJ Insight writer

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