The new Chief Executive, CY Leung, has followed through with his election manifesto promise to "establish a special taskforce to undertake a study on improving protection for workers in high-risk occupations in relation to insurance, compensation for work injuries, therapy and rehabilitation".
In his 2013 Policy Address, he announced that a Special Committee on Standard Working Hours (SWH) will be set up in the first quarter of 2013, comprising government officials, representatives of labour unions and employers' associations, academics and community leaders.
The role of the Special Committee will be to study the issues related to SWH and put forward policy recommendations that could best suit the overall interests of Hong Kong. The Special Committee also aims to provide a platform to various sectors of the community to "carry out an informed and in-depth discussion on working hours, build consensus and identify the way forward".
The establishment of this Special Committee follows the publication by the Labour Department of a Policy Study on Standard Working Hours in June 2012. The Policy Study examined:
the essential components of an SWH regime, including the definition of "working hours", the objectives of the working hours policy, overtime limit, overtime pay and exemptions from the regime;
the global implementation experience and challenges faced by 12 other countries in regulating working hours;
the latest working hours situation of employees in various sectors of Hong Kong;
the possible economic implication of introducing an SWH regime in Hong Kong; and
the key issues that required further discussion.
The Policy Study concludes that with an SWH threshold of 40 hours per week, the number of impacted employees would be 2.38 million (91.1% of the 2.61 million full-time employees).
If the weekly threshold is increased to 44 or 48 hours, 1.86 million or 1.32 million employees would be affected respectively.
Under the three hypothetical scenarios (40, 44 and 44 hours), the corresponding estimated increase in total wage bill for Hong Kong employers would range from $55.2 billion to $8.0 billion per annum. This equates to between 1.7% and 11.4% of the current total wage bill.
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