GOVERNMENT plans to legislate standard working hours will not alleviate excessive working hours, but risk the city’s competitiveness and economic development, says the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC).
“Overseas experience shows that standard working hours forces employers to hire more part-time employees, which fragment jobs and exacerbate underemployment,” said the chamber statement.
“Uphold the free-market economy principles on which Hong Kong has thrived,” urged chamber CEO Shirley Yuen, adding that stipulating working hours will only make it difficult for companies to survive.
“Rather than standardising working hours through legislation, employers and employees should draw up contracts based on the demands of work in individual sectors, stipulating job requirements, duties, working hours and arrangements for overtime,” she said.
“To boost the economy, the chamber urges government to use the budget at the end of this month to reduce the profits tax rate and implement a two-tier tax system to ease SMEs’ tax burden,” said the HKGCC statement.
Ms Yuen and HKGCC representative on the Labour Advisory Board Emil Yu advised increasing the labour force.
According to government statistics, Hong Kong’s unemployment rate stood at 3.2 per cent in the last quarter and underemployment fell to 1.4 per cent.
Ms Yuen said stipulating standard working hours will only make it more difficult for companies to survive.
Mr Yu said that since the introduction of the minimum wage, low-income workers’ wages are calculated based on the number of hours worked, and their right to overtime pay is protected under that law.
The impact of standard working hours will have far-reaching consequences for both low-income employees and the entire workforce.
Some 300,000 SMEs in Hong Kong account for more than 98 per cent of local businesses, and hire 1.2 million employees. With small companies already struggling to cope with talent loss, increasing costs and cash-flow constraints, standard working hours legislation will deliver a double blow to SMEs, he said.
Ms Yuen said this was a time to introduce simple two-tiered profits tax structure.
“We propose immediately reducing the standard profits tax rate to 15 per cent and further reduce the rate imposed on the first HK$2 million (US$257,896) of taxable profits to 10 per cent,” she said.
“Given that SMEs are the backbone of our economy, the chamber hopes the Financial Secretary’s upcoming budget will address the concerns of the business community, enhancing Hong Kong’s competitiveness and promoting economic growth,” she said.
Source: Asian Shipper