July 15th, 2010
02:55 AM GMT
Hong Kong, China – This week lawmakers in Hong Kong are debating if the city should institute its first-ever minimum wage. Most other parts of the world, including mainland China, have enacted laws requiring companies pay employees above a certain amount on an hourly, daily or monthly basis. However, despite calls dating from more than a decade ago to establish a minimum wage here, Hong Kong still has no pay floor.
Businesses have long argued that a minimum wage would hurt Hong Kong. Paying higher wages, the argument goes, could force companies burdened with high investment costs to shut down. Inflation could get out of hand. The city might lose its competitiveness or its reputation as one of the freest economies. On the other hand, a minimum wage could help address Hong Kong's widening income gap between the rich and the poor - one of the world's most egregious.
The lawmakers are expected to pass the minimum wage bill, but the tricky part will come later – deciding the level at which to set the standard. Labor activists want the equivalent of US$4.25 an hour, a wage they say would better offset the high cost of living here. At that rate, an estimated 17 percent of Hong Kong's workers would get a pay raise. Trade groups though argue about US$3 would be more reasonable.
In Hong Kong, US$4.25 can buy you a bowl of shrimp noodle soup or a fancy cup of coffee at your local Starbucks.
In your country, what is a fair floor price for an hour of work?
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