Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And Speaking of Labor Markets: Labor Market Equity for the Disabled in Hong Kong, Report of the Community Development Initiative

While free movement of capital tends to mark the approach to capital and capital markets within the emerging global economic architecture, the same does not hold true for labor markets.  Labor markets  have tended to remain mired in protectionism, paternalism, and management by a host of actors.  While capital has tended to see the elimination of borders and impediments to its use, labor has tended to be more tightly bound by  these very same borders.  Both Cuba and the United States, for example, tend to assert control over labor markets which, at least in the case of the United States, is substantially more restrictive than those applicable to capital. These restrictions might have human rights impacts for both states.  See Larry Catá Backer, States, Labor as a Market Commodity, and Human Rights Frameworks--Cuba's Grannacional Programs at the Intersection of Business and Human Rights, Law at the End of the Day, July 17, 2010 (Cuba); Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Advisory Opinion OC-18/03 Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser. A) No. 18 (2003) (Sept. 17, 2003) Requested by the United Mexican States against the United States of America  (Juridical Condition and rights of the Undocumented Migrants).  

But the micro picture within labor markets is no less troublesome.  Especially problematic remains the treatment of the disabled within labor markets.  This is as true in the developed as in the developing world.  See, e.g., Mor, Sagit,  "Between Hope and Evil: Reframing Disability Allowances" (Paper, 2009). One gets a good sense of the issues involved in the incorporation of the disabled within labor markets in Hong Kong from reports recently circulated by a Hong Kong NGO, the Community Development Initiative.

最低工資研 究調查發佈

最低工資立法在 即,為了使法案能夠更全面地真正地保障了所有勞動者尊嚴,使他們能夠透過勞力繼而得到合理的生活質素及報酬,社區發展動力培育特別開展了兩項研究調查: 《為殘疾人士創造就業機會及落實最低工資》及《2010年零售業薪酬調查報告》。研究已經完成並先後於 5月2日及7月12日作發佈,隨函 為上述之完整報告。


簡介:經勞工界和基層團體多年的爭取,最低 工資已開始展開立法程序,但對於殘疾人士,政府最初之主張是不把他們納入保障範圍,結果在響應團體爭取後才改變初衷。但把殘疾僱員納入最低工資,卻要引入 對他們的生產力評估機制,若現在僱員被評為生產力低於「正常」,會根據其相應生產力的最低工資打折。我們認為此舉實違反最低工資的精神。

《2010年零售業薪酬調查報告》 (暫時只有中文版本)

簡介:是項調查是與民間爭取最低工資聯盟共同進行。是次調查的對象是本港 最具規模及有代表性的零售業連鎖店,包括︰7–11便利店、OK便利店、惠康超級市場、百佳超級市場、華潤超級市場、萬寧藥房和屈臣氏個 人護理商店。調查形式為工作人員假扮應徵者親身到店舖詢問,查詢內容包括工作的時薪及數額。結果發現,零售業工資仍然嚴重偏低,臨時最低工資委員會成員麥 瑞琼,其屬下的7-11更蟬聯「最刻薄僱主」。聯盟要求最低工資應訂於時薪33元,並要求連 鎖零售集團要負企業社會責任,給予員工合理的工資水平。

The CDI announced the release of a Minimum Wage Research Surveys in conjunction with the consideration by the Hing Kong government released of a labor bill.  The first study, "Creating Employment Opportunities & Realizing of Minimum Wage for Disabled," focused on employment opportunities and implementation of minimum wage regime for disabled workers.  The second is a " Pay Retail Survey 2010. " The first report attacks efforts to tie minimum wages to productivity--especially when productivity is measured against the disabled to their detriment. The second report reflected information gathering by CDI staff posing as job candidates and seeks to make a case to apply global principles of corporate social responsibility to support a "reasonable wages" regime. 

The Executive Summary of "Creating Employment Opportunities" is reproduced below:

I. After years of battle by the labour sector and grass-root groups, the issue of minimum wage is already in the process of legislation. However, if the capability assessment mechanism is introduced to the disabled employees, according to their below “normal” productivity, their wages will be discounted. We believe allowing the disabled to receive wages below the minimum wage violates the spirit of minimum wage.

II. Currently, among the 347,000 disabled (excluding the Intellectual Disabled) aged above 15, 45,800 (13.2%) disabled engage in paid employment. For the other 302,100 disabled who are unemployed, most of them are forced to retire due to the lack of work opportunities. Thus we can conclude that, the disabled are not widely accepted by the market.

III. Because of many different reasons, most of the employed disabled are currently employed in Non-Government Organizations (“NGOs”). A majority of them are working at sheltered workshops and social enterprises which could only provide comparatively lower salaries to maintain their competitiveness in the market. Hence, the income of the disabled is generally lower than the work force .Almost 30% of the employed disabled are making below $4,000 per month. Obviously, even the disabled could become self-reliant, they could not “rehabilitate their lives”.

IV. As the current mechanism cannot solve the disabled’s employment problems comprehensively, we would like to suggest the HKSAR government to impose a “Voluntary First, Mandatory Second” Disabled Employee Quota System to provide a larger and more user-friendly employment space for the disabled, our suggestions are as follow:

 Gradual enforcement of the disabled employment quotas system. At the beginning, only the government divisions, public sectors and subsidized organizations are required to employ 2% of disabled employees, and the results are reported every year. Departments which meet the target are rewarded financially.
 Encouraging the business sector and other organizations to impose their own voluntary quota system. Small and Medium Enterprises with less than 50 people are exempted
 Buying products and services from social enterprises to replace direct employment of the disabled is also allowed.
 May provide tax concessions and other support to reward the organizations that meet the target.
 Finally, institutionalizing the above measures through the legislative system when the society has a common consent on employing the disabled.

V. Apart from the above mentioned, for the improvement of livelihood of the disabled, it is not enough by simply providing them with employment opportunities alone. If the disabled could only make low incomes, they could not even support their own daily livings, and their difficulties are not resolved. Hence, both the legislation of minimum wages and the creation of employment opportunities for the disabled are indispensable and should be carried out at the same time.

VI. Nevertheless, the legislation of minimum wage is to guarantee each labour is paid with adequate income for making a living and to ensure he labour could lead a decent life. If the meaning of “labour” is those who contribute their effort in production, it is not justifiable that the disabled are to be exempted. In order to make sure the operational cost of enterprises will not soar, governments in different countries usually set the minimum wage at a comparatively low level. If the disabled are to be paid at a discount of the minimum wage according to their capability assessment, what is the ultimate meaning for protecting them in accordance with the minimum wages?

VII. The arrangement for the disabled to call for a voluntary capability assessment is an acceptable solution to protect the employment opportunities of the disabled from negative impact. In this case the employer will not need to bear the cost of the enforcement of minimum wage, but since there is no disability social security in Hong Kong, if the disabled take the discounted wage, they cannot even maintain their basic livings. Therefore the government is responsible to fill the gap between the discounted wage rate and the minimum wage. If the disabled are evaluated as possessing half of productivity of an able-bodied worker, that particular employer may give 50% of the minimum wages to that employee, while the remaining 50% should be paid by the government.

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