Hong Kong 2003
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Labour Market Situation

In the fourth quarter of 2003, Hong Kong's labour force decreased by 0.5 per cent over the corresponding period of 2002. The labour force stood at 3.5 million, of whom 56.1 per cent were males and 43.9 per cent were females. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2003 was 7.3 per cent while the underemployment rate was 3.3 per cent, as compared with 7.2 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively, a year earlier.

Of those employed, the majority (85.5 per cent) were engaged in the service sectors — 31.5 per cent in wholesale, retail and import/export trades, restaurants and hotels; 27.2 per cent in community, social and personal services; 15.5 per cent in financing, insurance, real estate and business services; and 11.3 per cent in transport, storage and communications. Only 5.2 per cent worked in the manufacturing sector.

Owing to a structural shift in employment during the past decade, the number of persons engaged in the service sectors is now over 10 times as many as in the manufacturing sector. In December 2003, 1 988 500 persons were engaged in selected industries in the service sectors, which was 0.7 per cent lower than the corresponding figure in 2002. Only 168 300 persons were engaged in the manufacturing sector, a decrease of 8.8 per cent compared with a year earlier.

The printing and publishing industry was the largest manufacturing industry, engaging 37 900 persons in December 2003, followed by the wearing apparel industry (excluding footwear), the textiles industries and the food manufacturing industry, which engaged 22 500, 20 300 and 19 400 persons, respectively. Details of the distribution of establishments and persons engaged by selected major industry groups are given in the Appendices.

Employment Situation

The labour market worsened abruptly in the first half of 2003, mainly affected by the outbreak of SARS. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 7.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2003 to an all-time high of 8.7 per cent in May-July 2003. However, the labour market improved somewhat thereafter in tandem with the gradual recovery of business activities. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 7.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2003. Vacancies registered with the Labour Department rose from 209 570 in 2002 to 225 106 in 2003. The department also placed 66 100 job-seekers in employment during the year.


Wage rates are calculated on a time basis, either daily or monthly, or on an incentive basis according to the volume of work performed. The average wage rate for employees up to the supervisory level, including daily-rated and monthly-rated employees, decreased by 1.5 per cent in money terms between December 2002 and December 2003. After discounting changes in consumer prices, the average wage rate decreased by 0.3 per cent in real terms.

In December 2003, the average monthly wage rate for the supervisory, technical, clerical and miscellaneous non-production workers in the wholesale, retail and import/export trades, restaurants and hotels sector was $11,552. Based on the wage indices, the average wage rate for this group decreased by 2.1 per cent in money terms, or by 0.8 per cent in real terms, compared with December 2002.

Over the same period, the average wage rate in the manufacturing sector decreased by 2.2 per cent in money terms, or by 0.9 per cent in real terms. The overall average daily wage was $325 for craftsmen and operatives.

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