Face Off JRA 2015: Should the government enact standard working hours? (Affirmative)

Face Off JRA 2015: Should the government enact standard working hours? (Affirmative)

Standard working hours are meant to protect Hong Kong's workers. Such a law would regulate the weekly working hours and make employers pay overtime to those who work beyond the required hours. Hopefully, it would promote a work-life balance and raise people's standard of living.

Critics of the legislation have put forward arguments borrowed from economics textbooks. They warned that it would push up labour costs and lead to an increase in inflation and job losses.

These claims may be applicable to European countries, where the economies are stagnant, and companies are laying off staff. But Hong Kong is a different story. Our jobless rate is around 3.3 per cent, which is basically full employment in economic terms.

We have a robust economy and many firms, such as those in the construction industry, are facing a shortage of workers. According to government statistics, more than 580,000 workers need to work for more than 60 hours per week. Even if Hong Kong introduces standard working hours, these companies cannot cut down on their staff without downsizing their operations.

Long working hours can also have a negative impact on people's health and their family life, surveys have revealed.

Standard working hours can be compared to the minimum wage legislation. When the minimum wage was introduced four years ago, critics said it would cause job losses and hurt Hong Kong's economy. But no such thing has happened. Today, the unskilled workers have benefitted from the legislation and our economy is as strong as ever.

For the sake of their health and families, Hongkongers deserve to enjoy standard working hours irrespective of the jobs they do.

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