The Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards’ Union has urged citizens to take extra care when visiting public swimming pools, beaches, and water sports centres, as the shortage of lifeguards continues.
There are currently 414 fewer lifeguards than typically needed across the 44 swimming pools and 41 beaches managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), according to data published by the union on Tuesday.
The shortage has caused life-saving services at Cafeteria Old and New Beaches, Golden Beach, and Clear Water Bay First and Second Beaches to be suspended more than 20 times this month, putting swimmers’ safety at risk.
“The manpower shortage problem became more serious in 2015. In four years the shortage has jumped from less than 100 to more 400 now, which is unprecedented,” the Union wrote on its Facebook page.
A spokesperson for the Union, Nick Wu, reminded swimmers to check the availability of lifeguards at beaches, and whether pools are open, before visiting.
“The LCSD may not close all pools at once, soyou need to ask specifically which pools [at each centre] are open,” he said.
Wu also said that the LCSD should address the cause of the shortage by increasing wages, especially for seasonal lifeguards who have to pay for their own life-saving certificate, which can cost up to HK$1,000.
Increasing wages would encourage lifeguards to stay in the public sector rather than choosing to work for private housing estates or clubs which offer higher salaries, he added.
In response to media inquiries, the LCSD said it is short of at least 220 seasonal lifeguards for June to August, but believes more students will fill those positions during their summer break.
To help maintain a more stable headcount, the LCSD has listed job openings for civil service lifeguards. It has also set up a support team to handle urgent shortages.