One in five South Asian workers is paid less than the HK$28 per hour minimum wage, but they keep quiet for fear of losing their jobs, a survey has found.
This came as a group of ethnic minority students urged the government to provide a subsidy for General Certificate of Education Chinese language exam fees so they can obtain higher academic qualifications.
The Hong Kong Catholic Commission For Labour Affairs randomly interviewed 238 South Asians - mostly Pakistani and Indian - aged over 15, from March to June. Asked about working conditions and enforcement of the minimum wage, more than 75 percent said they are aware of the law but keep quiet about low pay.
Commission policy research officer Law Pui-shan said many are unwilling to fight for their rights for fear of losing their jobs and those of their friends, as they depend on the friendship network to seek employment.
"They also have less bargaining power, as they do not speak English or Cantonese and have a low education level," said Law, adding most work as security guards for HK$22 to HK$27 per hour.
Assistant program officer Sairah Abbas said one guard told of being required to remain at his workplace around the clock - with no rest day - but has only been paid for 12 hours a day since enactment of the minimum wage law in May last year.
"He was paid HK$7,000 a month, far below the minimum wage per hour," Abbas said.
The organization hopes the government will raise the minimum wage to HK$33, as well as legislate standard working hours and set up a commission on ethnic minorities.
Meanwhile, about 120 South Asian students joined a march from Wan Chai to the new government offices at Tamar to urge Chief Executive Leung Chun- ying to cut their Chinese language exam fees - which are HK$2,720 or HK$4,080 depending on the exam - before September.
"Our families simply cannot afford [the existing fees]," Henna Sajjad, 15, said.