The ‘new rating system’ is porous. The living wage is the way out

Low-wage outsourced workers not benefited from the new rating system 

Recently, the cleaning workers from Tin Ching Estate who sought a pay rise collectively have drawn social attention. The monthly salary of a cleaning worker from Tin Ching Estate is only $10,197, while a cleaning worker from the nearby Tin Yiu Estate who belong to the same contractor has a monthly salary of $13,800. There is a disparity of more than $3,600 for the same post, the same working hours and the same working area. Such a wide income disparity is caused by the differences between the new and old contracts, while workers from Tin Yiu Estate are bound by the former and those from Tin Ching Estate the latter. According to the Hong Kong Housing Authority, as of September 1, 2020, the new scoring system only benefits 40% of the workers, less than half.

There is a misunderstanding that workers who are under the old contracts will be transferred to new contracts after 2 years, but it is not that simple. According to the ‘special’ mechanism of contract renewal of the Hong Kong Housing Authority, two-year contracts can be ‘renewed’ twice, and three-year contracts can be ‘renewed’ once for two years. Therefore, the old contracts can last for five to six years. Under such circumstances, income disparity due to different contracts could last until 2025. 

  The average salary of security guards The average salary of cleaning workers The average salaries of both
New Contract $48.50 hourly / $12,028 monthly $47.86 hourly / $11,869 monthly $48.24 hourly / $11,964 monthly
Old Contract $40.02 hourly / $9,925 monthly $39.35 hourly / $9,759 monthly $39.75 hourly / $9,759 monthly
Difference

$8.48 hourly / $2103 monthly

A shortfall of 21.19%

$8.51 hourly / $2110 monthly

A shortfall of 21.63%

$8.49 hourly / $2106 monthly

A shortfall of 21.50%

 

The outsourcing system is the root of the problem. The living wage is the way out

The outsourcing system that awards contracts to the lowest tender has been criticized for many years. As the largest user of outsourced services in Hong Kong, the government has expanded the outsourcing services over the years. Workers under the outsourcing system are always paid poorly, close to the minimum wage. The government is taking the lead in exploiting and is thus utterly responsible for creating employment poverty.
 
In foreign countries, such as the United States, Canada, Singapore, and other places, there is a separate baseline wage for the outsourced grassroots workers which ensure that the outsourced low-paid employees can get a higher wage than the minimum wage. Earlier, Oxfam proposed the concept of a living wage based on the basic living expenses of Hong Kong families, including food and housing expenses. To meet the basic needs of a family (according to the 2020 data), an employee's hourly salary should be at least $57.4 (no pay on rest days, for those entitled to paid rest days are $48.2 per hour). As the current average wages for cleaning and security under the new contracts are $47.86 and $48.5 respectively, there is very little difference between that and the living wage of $48.1. Therefore, it is now the right time to implement a living wage, adopting an equal salary level for workers under new and old contracts, and ensure that all government outsourced workers can receive wages that meet the needs of family life.