12 July 2017

Survey Findings on Views about Contract Working Hours Proposal
Released by Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at CUHK

A telephone survey was conducted from 23 to 27 June 2017 by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong to gauge public views about the Contract Working Hours (CWH) plan recently proposed by the HKSAR government. 716 respondents aged 18 or above were successfully interviewed, with a response rate of 38.8%. The sampling error is + or –3.66% at a confidence level of 95%. 

Major findings are summarized as follows:

In this survey, while nearly two-fifths (39.7%) of the respondents approved the current plan, about one-fifth (21.9%) disapproved it and 32.3% reported “in-between”. If the current plan is implemented, half (50.1%) of the respondents believed that it is still necessary to introduce Standard Working Hours legislation in the future and only 11.7% said there is no such necessity. 45.6% of the respondents believed that the Hong Kong government, when formulating the CWH policy, should consider how to protect the employees’ employment benefits first, while about one-tenth (12.2%) believed that it should first take into consideration employers’ affordability. Three-tenths (30.8%) said that both factors need to be considered. 

With regard to the opinion that the low-paid grassroots-level employees do not have the bargaining power to fight for reasonable working hours and overtime compensation when facing the employers, two-fifths (40.8%) of the respondents agreed while 14.2% disagreed. Regarding the suggestion that since the current CWH plan does not specify the reasonable working hours per week, it might in fact legitimize the long working hours and overtime work without pay, 34.4% of the respondents agreed while nearly one-fifth (19.3%) disagreed. There are about one-third (32.4% and 31.7% respectively) of the respondents said “in-between” for those two questions. 

In the current plan proposed by the government, employees with a monthly income of $11,000 or less are eligible to be covered. There is concern that this threshold is too low to let many employees who regularly work overtime to benefit from the plan, thus the threshold should be raised. Nearly half (48.5%) of the respondents agreed with this suggestion, only 13.7% said the opposite while a little more than one-fifth (22.9%) indicated “in-between”. Among those who supported to raise the threshold, almost two-fifths (39.5%) agreed that the limit should be set at $16,000 or below, nearly three-tenths (29.7%) thought it should be between $16,000 and $25,000, 6.3% considered it should be between $25,000 and $40,000, and almost one-tenth (9.5%) supported that every employee should benefit from such a plan thus no income limit should be set. 

Concerning the opinion that although there are voices against the current plan, it is still better off for those employee who currently do not have any protection on their working hours at all, thus the plan should be accepted first, almost half (47.1%) of the respondents agreed, but also nearly one quarter (24.6%) disagreed while 17.2% said “in-between”. In terms of the impact of this plan, if it is implemented, on Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness, one-third (33.0%) of the respondents thought it would be more beneficial, close to three-tenths (27.3%) believed it would be more detrimental, and 15.1% said that it would be half-half. 

It is noticed that relatively higher percentage of the respondents answered “Don’t know/Hard to say” for some of the questions in this survey (about 15% for questions in Table 5-Table 7 and close to one-quarter for question in Table 9). On one hand, this reflects that the extent of concern on this issue for certain subgroup, such as those not in employment, might be relatively low. On the other hand, it indicates that overall the public is still not quite aware of the CWH plan proposed. The government needs to make more publicity efforts to promote the plan.