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- Financial hub Hong Kong is one of the world’s most expensive cities.
- On Monday, the city raised its minimum wage by 32 cents to about $5.1 per hour.
- Labor activists and welfare groups panned the measly increase, saying it’s not enough.
Hong Kong, one of the most expensive cities in the world, just raised its minimum wage by 32 cents an hour — and it’s drawing tons of backlash over the paltry increase.
The minimum wage increase was announced by Hong Kong’s government in January and took effect from May 1, which somewhat ironically marked Labor Day in the city.
A wage hike of 2.5 Hong Kong dollars, or roughly 32 cents, means that Hong Kong’s minimum wage is now 40 Hong Kong dollars per hour — a 7% increase from 37.50 Hong Kong dollars previously, per the announcement.
—Hong Kong SAR Government News (@newsgovhk) May 1, 2023
That rate had remained unchanged since 2019 due to an economic downturn amid the COVID-19 pandemic, per a 2020 report by the city’s government.
However, in real terms, this hike isn’t materially changing the financial situation of those on minimum wage salaries, as Hong Kong’s cumulative inflation rate from 2019 to 2022 was 7%, meaning the net increase is nullified.
The 32-cent wage hike was widely panned by activists and labor groups who say the increment is not enough in the costly financial hub. In 2022, Hong Kong was the most expensive city to live in, according to consulting firm Mercer’s cost of living list of over 200 cities.
“It is clear that it cannot keep up with inflation and the increase in the consumer price index, and the purchasing power of wages has even declined!” the Society for Community Organisation, a Hong Kong welfare group, said in an April 23 statement. The society added the minimum wage should be at least 53.40 Hong Kong dollars — 30% over the current level.
“What can you buy for 40 Hong Kong dollars? A McDonald’s meal? 150 grams of pork? Or one-sixteenth of a Disneyland ticket? What is the price of labor?” a UK-based Hong Kong labor rights monitor said in a Monday Facebook post. To contextualize that comment,, a six-piece Chicken McNuggets meal at the fast-food restaurant currently costs 28 Hong Kong dollars, according to the South China Morning Post.
The small wage increase this year is “absolutely unreasonable and unfair” amid high inflation, Kingsley Wong, the chairperson of Hong Kong’s federation of trade unions said in a Monday statement.
The situation in Hong Kong is similar to employees’ plight globally — workers are struggling to cope with high costs of living amid soaring inflation.
In the US some retired seniors are reentering the workforce and taking on service jobs for extra income, USA Today reported in April. In the UK, some people are drinking protein shakes as meal replacements and batch cooking to save on grocery costs, Insider’s Pete Syme reported in December 2022.