Some Hong Kong swimming pools and beaches may close over the summer because there are not enough lifeguards, say local lifeguard unions.
There is an estimated shortfall of more than 400 lifeguards, which is almost half of the total number needed during the peak season.
With the continuous shortage of seasonal lifeguards in local public swimming pools and beaches, more temporary closures of facilities in the new swimming season are expected, according to local lifeguard unions.
As the new swimming season begins in mid-April, lifeguard unions have expressed concerns over the difficulty in recruiting seasonal lifeguards, which may result in a shortage of manpower to look after the safety of swimmers.
The shortage is most serious in the Central and Western district, where 71.4 per cent of the seasonal lifeguard positions are vacant, followed by Wan Chai district with 61.9 per cent and Islands District with 54.8 per cent.
Siu Wai-han, president of the Union of Government Amenities Assistants, who are responsible for manpower planning for venues operated by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), said the department does not have any guidelines in place on when to close venues if there aren’t enough lifeguards, meaning swimmers’ safety could be at risk.
“Without guidelines, amenities assistants and senior lifeguards, we can only arrange manpower based on previous experience, which is not really ideal,” said Siu.
Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards Union representative Wu Kai-wing added the union has urged LCSD to tell the public of the number of lifeguards on duty at pools and on beaches, but the department has refused.
An LCSD spokesperson said there are guidelines on public pools and beaches management, which also contain direction for lifeguard work arrangements. But they did not specify whether there are instructions for closing down the facilities due to a shortage of manpower.
LCSD lifeguards are paid between HK$17,345 and HK$18,345 per month, or HK$89 to HK$93 per hour.
The union representatives have suggested the government raise lifeguards’ pay from artisan grade to professional grade, so they can attract more people to apply for the vacancies.