Published on : Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Tens of thousands of Hong Kong workers will have up to half of their wages paid by the government under a HK$100 billion (US$12.9 billion) package of measures to help businesses and residents struggling during the economic storm unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of the massive relief fund – equivalent in size to 3.5 per cent of the city’s gross domestic product – will go towards the wage plan, set to last for six months, which will target affected industries with payments capped at 50 per cent of the employee’s salary. The officials also aim to help sectors left out in a previous round of relief measures.
The plan, to be announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday evening, aims to safeguard employment and ease the woes of businesses after the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the city reached 935.
The staff affected by the latest social-distancing rules – including businesses forced to close – will benefit from the wage scheme, along with employees in sectors such as tourism and construction, two sources said. Some businesses set to benefit will be those related to education, such as tutorial centres, school bus operators and PE coaches contracted from outside, a source said.
The government is drawing reference from the British government’s recent practice of paying 80 per cent of salaries of employees in affected industries, although the percentage and cap are lower in Hong Kong.
In an unprecedented step announced last month, the United Kingdom government said the state would pay grants covering up to 80 per cent of salaries if companies keep workers on payroll rather than laying them off.