Hong Kong Report for the Year 1967/Chapter 2

Of the one-and-a-half million people working in Hong Kong, 576,440 are in the manufacturing industries. This conclusion is reached from an estimate of figures recorded in the 1966 by-census. At that time, 1,454,730 persons were described as 'economically active' and 1,400,350 claimed to be working; of these, 55,350 were counted as employers and 136,300 were working on their account.

The general employment pattern in the 1966 by-census showed that about 47 per cent of the working population was engaged in construction, manufacturing, mining, quarrying and the utilities, about 24 per cent in various services, 17 per cent in commerce, seven per cent in communications and five per cent in agriculture, forestry and fishing. Based on this pattern, the estimated employment figures at the end of 1967 were; manufacturing 576,440, services 352,690, commerce 243,960, construction 90,180, agriculture, forestry and fishing 76,370, communications 100,140, public utilities 14,290, mining and quarrying 4,390. There were also some 5,600 in other work, making an estimated total of 1,464,060 employed.

These figures give a broader picture than that available from actual statistics collected by the Labour Department, which are confined to voluntary returns from factories and industrial undertakings only. They do not include out-workers, people in cottage industries, the building construction industry, agriculture and fishing, or in unrecorded factories and undertakings. Neither do they include people employed in commerce and community and personal services. In 1967, voluntary returns showed that 443,972 people were directly employed in factories and industrial undertakings, an increase of 19,817 compared with the 1966 figure. Those engaged in weaving, spinning, knitting and the manufacture of garments and made-up textile goods, accounted for a total of 184,989 and remained the largest section of this labour force. The plastics industry, which also employs a large number of out-workers, remained the second largest employer.

During the year under review, it appeared that the demand for labour in manufacturing industries exceeded the supply. There were 11,232 factories on record in the Labour Department at the end of the year, many of them small concerns. Of these, 7,309 were registered under the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance. The tables at Appendix III show developments in main industrial groups and selected industries.

Industry in the New Territories is a comparatively recent development–apart from traditional trades in the main market towns and some pre-war textile factories in Tsuen Wan. In December, 1967, the Labour Department had on record 955 factories in the New Territories with a labour force of 63,513. The bulk of this industrial population is concentrated in the new township of Tsuen Wan which is designed as a balanced community and includes factories, housing, recreational facilities, services and other amenities. It has many modern textile factories, and others producing metalware, enamelware, glassware and plastics. There is also a government-owned flatted factory provided to meet the special requirements of small scale silk weavers. Castle Peak and Sha Tin, two other areas in the New Territories, have been selected as sites for developing other large self-contained townships and work on the first stage of the development of Castle Peak has begun. There is some mining, mostly on a small scale employing a labour force of 473, of whom 461 work at an iron mine at Ma On Shan. There are also several stone quarries with a total labour force of 898.

In many old market towns and fishing settlements in the New Territories, traditional village industries still provide employment in the preparation of salt-fish, fish-paste, bean-curd, soya sauce and preserved fruits, the burning of coral and sea-shells for lime, brick-manufacture, boat building and repairing.

Although no current figures on unemployment are available, the increase in the number of people employed in registered and recorded factories and industrial undertakings since 1966 suggests that the number out of work at the end of the year was not any greater than at the time of the 1966 by-census when 22,930 persons claimed to be unemployed, and 31,450 stated they were looking for their first jobs. This unexpectedly high figure was due to the by-census taking place in August, just after the end of the school year.

As most countries maintain strict control over the entry of foreign nationals seeking work, opportunities overseas for Hong Kong Chinese are limited. Hong Kong itself has a good labour market and it is not easy to recruit workers for employment abroad unless the wages offered are particularly attractive. Under the Contracts for Overseas Employment Ordinance, which is based on International Labour Conventions, legislative effect has been given to the provisions of the relevant Conventions that every overseas contract for a manual worker is required to be in writing and signed by the employer, or his representative, and the worker. The overseas contract must be presented for attestation by the Commissioner of Labour. The ordinance does not apply to any one who is a crew member of a ship or aircraft; or who holds an employment voucher issued under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962; or has been granted admission, on a permanent basis, to an overseas territory. The maximum period of service which may be stipulated in any such contract must not exceed two years if the worker is unaccompanied by his family, or three years if he is. When the original contract expires, a worker may enter into a re-engagement contract. A worker for overseas employment also has to be medically examined before leaving Hong Kong. The cost of the examination and of all other formalities is borne by the prospective employer. In enforcing the Contracts for Overseas Employment Ordinance, the Labour Department works in close co-operation with the Immigration Department.

During the year, 2,368 workers went overseas for employment compared with 2,002 the previous year and 1,416 in 1965. Few of these workers were accompanied by dependants. The number of workers recruited for Malaysia and Brunei increased during the year, and these countries, which mainly require domestic servants, fishermen and skilled and semi-skilled workers in the building trade, continued to be the main receiving areas. The British Phosphate Commission also recruited through a local agent 163 workers for Nauru and Ocean Islands. This figure shows a decrease for the second successive year. Re-engagement contracts, as required under the Contracts for Overseas Employment Ordinance, numbered 1,093.

Under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act which came into effect on July 1, 1962 the Labour Department assumed responsibility for forwarding to the Ministry of Labour applications for vouchers from local Commonwealth citizens seeking to enter Britain for unspecified employment. During the year, 37 such applications were received and seven vouchers were issued.

The Labour Department also undertook to deliver 190 'Category A' vouchers issued under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act to local people of British nationality who had been offered specific jobs in Britain. Last year 124 were issued. The Ministry of Labour also issued 757 labour permits to local residents of non-British nationality to enable them to work in Britain, mainly in Chinese restaurants.

The Local Employment Service, known until May this year as the Employment Information Service, was originally created to disseminate information about vacancies in industry. It was expanded and consolidated during the year and now provides the basic functions of an employment exchange introducing registered job seekers to prospective employers and vice versa. During the year the service registered 12,372 workers, recorded 999 requests for workers from employers and placed 1,081 workers.

The Seamen's Recruiting Office, which became fully operational as part of the Marine Department on June 27, 1966, had 42,624 seamen of Chinese race on its registers at the end of the year. During 1967 it supplied 11,451 seamen for employment at sea in various trades. During the same period shipping firms which were licensed under the Merchant Shipping (Recruitment of Seamen) Ordinance to operate crew departments, supplied 19,408 seamen.

Industrial TrainingEdit

In 1965 the government appointed an Industrial Training Advisory Committee, comprising representatives of industry, labour, other organizations and the government, under the chairmanship of the Commissioner of Labour. On its advice, the government appointed six associated industrial committees to investigate and report on industrial training problems in the electronics, textile, clothing and plastics industries (which manufacture about 67 per cent of Hong Kong exports), the building construction industry and the engineering trade. Because of the complex structure of this last industry the original committee investigating engineering is now being replaced by four separate industrial committees covering automobile repairs and servicing, electrical apparatus and appliances, machine shop and metal working, and shipbuilding and ship repairs. The Chairman and most of the members of the industrial committees have been drawn from the industries concerned, although a small number of government officers also serve on them, with a Labour Department representative as both member and secretary of each committee.

Responsibilities in the field of industrial training are divided among government departments. The training of operatives is the principal responsibility of the Labour Department in consultation with industry and any government department which may have an interest. Craftsman training is the responsibility of the Education Department where educational institutional training is concerned; otherwise it is the responsibility of the Labour Department, in consultation with advisory organizations, industry and other interested government departments. For technician and technologist training, the responsibility falls mainly upon the Education Department. At technician level, a large part of the financial burden for recurrent expenditure continues to rest on the government though considerable capital resources have been supplied by industry for the development of the Hong Kong Technical College. At the technologist level, the provision of education remains in the hands of the government so far as it is not provided by the universities.

The government has indicated that, while industry itself must be responsible for financing training at skilled and semi-skilled levels, it will assist by providing land free of premium for approved group-training schemes organized by industry; or by granting loans for the purchase of flatted factory floor space for training purposes. The policy of granting land free of premium for operative training was extended in March, this year, to qualify any company whose employees need specialized training of a nature which cannot be included in a group scheme, if there is an element of public interest involved. To date only one application for land free of premium has been received, and approved.

Some industries such as textiles and, to a lesser degree, garment manufacturing have their own schemes for training newly engaged operatives.

Training centres run by voluntary welfare organizations, as well as by government departments, offer forms of vocational training, mainly for the under-privileged, physically disabled young people placed in approved schools and prisoners. The Industrial Training Advisory Committee has appointed a functional committee to coordinate the industrial training activities of such centres.

The Hong Kong Technical College is the principal government institution providing technical education at technologist, technician, craft and pre-apprentice or pre-craft levels. There are also six government secondary technical schools, two non-government institutions providing technical education for boys at secondary level and three secondary modern schools which provide three years of secondary education with a practical bias. The proposed technical institute will concentrate upon pre-apprenticeship, craft apprenticeship and instructor training and will take over courses now run by the Hong Kong Technical College, permitting the College to concentrate on higher levels. There are also courses in private schools for, among others, aircraft pilots, radio operators, radio technicians, typists, stenographers, book-keepers, dressmakers and tailors, artists, shoe-makers, rattan-workers, printers, wood-workers, painters and car drivers.

Apprenticeship systems in Hong Kong fall into either the traditional sector or the modern westernized sector, based on the British pattern of craft apprenticeship which is followed by government workshops and some of the larger industrial concerns. A special feature is the award of overseas training opportunities to outstanding technical apprentices who have completed their local training. The Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company of Hong Kong Limited, the Hong Kong Whampoa Dock Company Limited, and the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Limited, train substantial numbers of apprentices, and some public utility companies train a small number.

In many Chinese factories, run on traditional lines, the recruitment of apprentices is haphazard. No minimum qualifications are required and apprentices are usually engaged after introduction by relatives or acquaintances. Theoretical instruction is seldom provided and little encouragement is given to apprentices to attend part-time classes in related technical subjects. They are left to pick up their skills by watching and imitating experienced artisans. The number of people seeking apprenticeships in traditional Chinese crafts has recently diminished because of readily available employment in modern factories.

By the amendment in 1965 of the Employers and Servants Ordinance, any apprenticeship contract for a period of six months or more is deemed to be a contract for one month, renewable from month to month, unless it has been attested by the Commissioner of Labour within one month after it was made. A sub-committee of the Industrial Training Advisory Committee continued to examine during 1967 all aspects of apprenticeship, and by the end of the year plans were well advanced for the establishment of pilot apprenticeship schemes in industries in which previously there had been no formal training of apprentices.

On the recommendation of the Industrial Training Advisory Committee, two experts were engaged in July for a short term to advise and assist government on all matters relating to vocational and industrial training and in assessing the manpower resources and requirements of industry.

Wages and Conditions of WorkEdit

Most semi-skilled and unskilled workers in the manufacturing industry are on daily rates of pay, although piece-rates are common. Men and women receive the same rates of pay for piece-work, but women are generally paid less when engaged on a time basis. Wages may be calculated on an hourly, daily, or monthly basis and are customarily paid weekly or twice monthly.

The range of daily wages for the manufacturing industry at the end of 1967 was: $10 to $30.1 for skilled workers; $6 to $22.1 for semi-skilled; and $5.2 to $14.6 for unskilled. Many employers provide their workers with free accommodation, subsidized meals or food-allowances, good attendance bonuses and paid rest-days as well as a Chinese New Year bonus of one month's pay.

A consumer price index, intended as an indicator of the effects of price changes on household expenditure, was published throughout the year. It varied from 106 to 121 (base of 100=period September 1963 to August 1964). In December 1967 it stood at 112. The 1965 Salaries Commission, recommended that a special index based on the expenditure of households spending less than $600 a month should be published and used as the basis for monthly adjustment in the salaries of minor staff in government service. In accordance with this recommendation, a separate index, known as the Modified Consumer Price Index, was devised. A proportion of the wages of minor staff (Scale 1), in the public service, is adjusted monthly by reference to this index.

The Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance is the basis for the control of hours and conditions of work in industry. On December 1, amending legislation came into force which reduced the maximum standard working hours for women and young people, aged 16 and 17, to nine-and-a-half hours a day and 57 a week and requires hours of work to be reduced in stages over four years until, by December 1, 1971, the maximum standard hours for women and young persons employed in industry will be 48 a week. In addition to providing for maximum daily hours, regulations made under the ordinance provide for limited overtime, weekly rest days and rest periods for women and young persons.

The Industrial Employment (Holidays with Pay and Sickness Allowance) Ordinance provides for six annual holidays to be given to workers in industrial establishments and for sickness allowance up to 12 days a year.

Young persons between the age of 14 and 16 may work only eight hours a day, with a break of one hour after five hours continuous work. Children under the age of 14 are prohibited from working in industry, and no woman or young person is allowed to work at night or underground in any mine.

There are no legal restrictions on hours of work for men. Most men employed in industry work 10 hours a day or less. Government employees and those in concerns operating on western lines work eight hours. The restrictions on the hours of work for women which were introduced in January 1959, and which have recently been amended to allow for the phased introduction of a 48 hour week, resulted in a decrease in a number of hours worked by men in the same concern. By December 1, 1967, 209 cotton spinning and silk weaving mills had introduced a system of three eight-hour daily shifts, cotton weaving mills were on either two or three shifts, and it was estimated that 34,421 men and 36,527 women were working eight hours a day. A rest period of one hour a day is customary throughout industry, but when working hours exceed eight a day, the period may be prolonged to as much as three hours. Except where continuous production demands a rotation of rest days, which are usually unpaid, Sunday is the most common rest day. Many male industrial workers do not have a rest day, but it is customary to grant unpaid leave on request.

Labour Administration and Industrial RelationsEdit

The Commissioner of Labour is the principal adviser to the Governor on labour and industrial relations policies. All labour legislation is initiated in the Labour Department, which ensures that Hong Kong's obligations under International Labour Conventions are observed. The organization of the department provides for four divisions: Labour Relations and Development; Industry; Employment; Industrial Health.

The Labour Department continued to assist local trade unionists in obtaining training overseas. One trade unionist attended a Labour Union Leadership course in Canada under the joint sponsorship of the Canadian External Aid Office and the Canadian Labour Congress. Another went to Britain for an Industrial Relations course organized by the Ministry of Overseas Development in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour.

With the exception of a small neutral and independent segment, workers' unions are either affiliated to, or associated with, one of two local federations which bear allegiance to opposing political groups and which are registered as societies. Divided politically, and further separated by differences in dialect, the number of unions has grown beyond practical needs, and divergent loyalties have prevented those with common interests from amalgamating into effective organizations.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions supports the Chinese People's Republic. Most of the members of its 65 affiliated unions are concentrated in shipyards, textile-mills and public utilities, or are seafarers. A further 16 unions, nominally independent, are friendly with the federation and participate in its activities. The other trade union federation, the Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council, sympathizes with the policies of the Taiwan authorities. Most of the members of its 63 affiliated unions and of the 29 nominally independent unions, which generally support the Trades Union Council, are employed in the catering and building trades. The Trades Union Council is affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. There are 70 independent unions, some of which continued to make improvements in their internal administration and in the services offered to their members.

Taking disputes over wage demands into account, the Conciliation Section of the Labour Department dealt with 3,357 disputes, of which 476 involved large wage claims. This compared with 403 last year. There were a further 2,881 minor disputes compared with 2,192 in the previous year. Altogether there were 12 strikes, and the number of man-days lost in all disputes was 22,525 compared with 24,355 in 1966.

During the first few months of the year there were several trade disputes where settlement was unusually difficult because of the intrusion of political considerations and antipathies. The most notable were the disputes in a group of four associated taxicab companies, the Green Island Cement Company Limited and the Hong Kong Artificial Flower Works. The taxicab dispute ended with the management winding up the companies, retrenching all drivers, with severance pay, and selling the vehicles. Some were sold to the retrenched drivers. At the Green Island Cement Works dissident workers so disrupted operations with political demonstrations that the company decided to close down the works on May 5 and discharged all staff with full terminal benefits. The works were re-opened with newly engaged labour on June 24.

In the case of the Hong Kong Artificial Flower Works, a concern with two factories, one in Kennedy Town and another in San Po Kong, settlement of the dispute by direct talks between management and workers was not possible and the management decided to close down both factories. Picketing and political demonstrations outside the factories followed and on May 6 a number of workers were arrested for exceeding the bounds of peaceful picketing.

The two plastic flower factories later re-engaged the labour which had not been opposed to measures which gave rise to the dispute.

During the disturbances a number of unions affiliated to the left-wing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions called on their members, particularly those engaged in public transport and utility companies, to withdraw their labour in support of political objectives rather than in furtherance of genuine trade disputes.

The legal requirements regarding the registration and control of trade unions are set out in the Trade Union Registration Ordinance and administered by the Registrar of Trade Unions. He deals with all applications for registration by new unions and trade union federations and registers any alterations to rules, changes of name, amalgamations or dissolutions. He also has the power to cancel the registration of a trade union in certain circumstances but the union has the right of appeal against his decision to the Full Court.

Anyone may be a member or an officer of a trade union provided he is ordinarily resident in the Colony and habitually engaged or employed in the relevant trade or occupation. Union executives must be elected by secret ballot and no one under 21 is eligible for office. Without the written consent of the Registrar, no one can be an officer of more than one registered trade union at the same time, but this restriction does not apply to an officer of a trade union who simultaneously holds office in a registered trade union federation of which his union is a member. Any person convicted of crimes involving fraud, dishonesty, extortion or membership of a triad society, cannot be an officer of a trade union except with the consent of the Governor in Council.

No registered trade union may be a member of any trade union or other organization established outside Hong Kong except with the consent of the Governor in Council. Registered trade unions are immune from actions in tort when acting in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute. Individuals acting in agreement or combination are given protection from the law relating to conspiracy and tort, provided that the act, if committed by one person, would not be punishable as a crime or not actionable if done without agreement or combination. Peaceful picketing is allowed, but violence and intimidation are prohibited.

Registered trade unions are deemed to be corporate bodies for all purposes. Two or more registered trade unions, irrespective of their trade or industry may amalgamate, but membership of trade union federations is confined to registered trade unions within the same trade or industry.

Registered unions are required by law to keep accurate accounts which must be audited by a person approved by the Registrar, who must receive them within three months of the end of the union's financial year. Unions must also give to the Registrar, before April 1 each year, a return for the 12 months ended December 31 in the previous year, showing membership figures, the names and occupations of the principal officers and the name of the auditor.

The 311 unions on the register at the end of 1967 consisted of 243 workers' unions with a total declared membership of 171,512; 54 organizations of merchants or employers with a declared membership of 5,866 and 14 mixed organizations with a total declared membership of 8,137.

Safety, Health and WelfareEdit

The Industrial Health Division of the Labour Department acts as an advisory service to government and industry on matters relating to the health of workers. Essentially, the work of the division is concerned with preventing occupational disease and protecting workers against health hazards in their working environment. Hazards to the health of workers are reported by the statutory notification of occupational disease, by the factory inspectorate or by officers of the division. Control is attained by environmental and biological monitoring and the division has a laboratory with technicians trained in industrial hygiene.

Environmental monitoring includes the estimation of inorganic and organic poisons, explosive gases and dusts in the working atmosphere. Investigations into the standards of thermal comfort, ventilation, noise and lighting have been carried out in offices, laundries, workshops and marine launches during the year. Biological monitoring aims at protecting the health of specific groups of workers who, because of the nature of their jobs, are particularly vulnerable. The monitoring take the form of periodical medical examinations and may include chest X-rays and laboratory investigations.

The division also undertakes the clinical examinations, case work and medical assessment of injured workers under the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance. This important advisory service operates principally from the casualty departments of major government hospitals.

Air pollution in Hong Kong, as in other industrialized countries, is presenting increasing problems. A committee was appointed this year to determine the causes and extent of pollution and to consider what statutory measures are needed to control the problem. A pilot programme was begun to measure levels of sulphur dioxide (which was taken as an index of pollution) at 24 selected sites in Hong Kong, mainly in the urban areas.

Factories are encouraged to have adequate first-aid facilities and first-aid training classes for industrial workers are organized in conjunction with the St John Ambulance Association. The need for first-aid facilities is now recognized by local industry and in many large concerns staffed clinics are provided by employers. A survey last year showed that 44 undertakings with clinic facilities employed registered medical practitioners on a full or part-time basis. These services covered about 45,000 workers, or around 13 per cent of the total workforce, employed in registered industrial undertakings. Another 258 undertakings, employing 48,000 workers, made arrangements for their employees to be seen, as necessary, by outside medical practitioners. Under the Industrial Employment (Holidays with Pay and Sickness Allowance) Ordinance 1962, applications from industrial undertakings for recognition of medical treatment schemes are considered. Early in the year, registered doctors employed in industry formed a society whose aims are to advance the knowledge and practice of occupational medicine and to promote interest, research and education in occupational health.

Other welfare amenities vary from the statutory requirements of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance to comprehensive facilities including canteens, kitchens, rest rooms and living accommodation. Where appropriate, the department recommends the inclusion of dining and rest rooms in plans for new factories. Free or subsidized meals are commonly provided by managements while some firms employ welfare officers and offer facilities for recreation, adult education and free or subsidized tuition for employees' children.