Pedestrians walk past a vacant shop in the Tai Hang district of Hong Kong on Sept 17, 2021. (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)
The Hong Kong government will fork out between HK$26 billion to HK$31 billion to launch the second Employment Support Scheme that is estimated to benefit between 1.1 million to 1.3 million employees, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced in the Friday daily anti-pandemic press conference.
“With the tightening of social distancing measures, the unemployment rate in Hong Kong has risen drastically. We need to contain the further increase of the unemployment rate,” the chief executive cautioned. “We believe the unemployment rate figure from January to March will be much worse.”
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“The ESS is to bestow confidence for employers that the government will subsidize wage payment from May to July. When the pandemic recedes that permits the relaxation of social distancing measures, and coupled with the ESS, we believe Hong Kong economy will rebound in the future,” Lam added.
If the funding request is approved by the Legislative Council, the ESS will be open for application starting April
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate climbed to 4.5 percent for the period between December 2021 and February 2022, rising notably by 0.6 percentage points compared with the previous period from November 2021 to January 2022, the Census and Statistics Department data showed on Thursday. The underemployment rate increased to 2.3 percent during the period.
If the funding request is approved by the Legislative Council, the ESS will be open for application starting April.
Employees whose salaries are under HK$30,000 per month are eligible to apply for the ESS. They will be reimbursed HK$8,000 for a duration of three months. The government will disburse the salary subsidy to employers in May, June and July.
The chief executive said that some industry sectors are excluded from the ESS because their businesses have not been directly affected by the pandemic. These segments include supermarkets, pharmacies, property management companies, banks, financial institutions, couriers, and telecom companies.
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In 2020, the administration launched the first ESS worth of more than HK$90 billion to stabilize the city’s job market by providing wage subsidy to employers when the COVID-19 pandemic roiled the Hong Kong economy.
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