This Jan 9, 2022 photo shows people carrying takeaway dinner boxes in Hong Kong’s Central area, with gyms, bars and evening restaurant dining closed following the announcement of strict new anti-pandemic controls after a surge in COVID-19 cases in the city. (BERTHA WANG / AFP)
HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government approved, as of October, total HK$12.1 billion in wage subsidies for May to eligible employers as part of its employment support scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund, according to the city’s labor and welfare chief.
The subsidies were meant for about 1.57 million employees, of whom some 1.48 million were granted "full subsidy", 80,000 "half subsidy" and 10,000 others were granted "elderly subsidy", Chris Sun said in a written reply to a related question in the Legislative Council on Wednesday.
The Employment Support Scheme Secretariat also approved wage subsidy applications of over 150,000 employers – which is about 90 percent of the eligible employers – for the months of June and July, he said, adding that it involves over HK$20 billion and around 1.35 million employees.
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To relieve the unemployment situation caused by the epidemic and the anti-epidemic measures, the government has earmarked a total of HK$19.8 billion under the Anti-epidemic Fund to implement the Job Creation Scheme in three phases.
Chris Sun, Secretary for Labor and Welfare, HKSAR
Of the employees, about 1.27 million were granted "full subsidy", 70,000 "half subsidy" and 10,000 "elderly subsidy", said the secretary for labor and welfare.
The outstanding cases meanwhile relate to wage subsidies for June and July involving various complexities and review requests from the employers, said Sun.
“The government-appointed agent is seeking supplementary information from the employers or the MPF (Mandatory Provident Fund) trustees concerned in order to expedite the processing and approval of wage subsidies for June and July to those outstanding cases,” he said.
Regarding self-employed persons, the scheme secretariat has also approved a one-off subsidy to all eligible self-employed persons, involving 98,000 persons and a total subsidy of over HK$780 million, he said.
The secretary also estimated the administrative costs of the 2022 employment support scheme, which was announced on March 18, 2022, to be about 0.4 percent of the total wage subsidies.
Aimed to help employers retain their employees, and also employ more staff when the business revives, the scheme saw about 176,000 applications from employers involving about 1.66 million employees within the two-week application period ending on May 12.
As of October, about 20,000 employers who have been approved the wage subsidies did not fulfil the employment undertaking in the 2022 employment support scheme. They are required to return the relevant subsidy amount for the unfilled headcount and pay a penalty equivalent to 10 percent of the subsidy amount to be returned, according to the labor and welfare chief.
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“To relieve the unemployment situation caused by the epidemic and the anti-epidemic measures, the government has earmarked a total of HK$19.8 billion under the Anti-epidemic Fund to implement the Job Creation Scheme (JCS) in three phases,” said Sun.
Under the JCS, around 90 000 time-limited jobs in the public and private sectors have been created so far for people of different skill sets and academic qualifications, and around 68,000 have been filled, he added.