For the first time in 10 years, the average pay increase for employees in Hong Kong has failed to meet inflation.
And the expectation for next year is for a 3 percent raise, the survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management indicates.
But a survey by the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions shows workers believe a reasonable pay rise for 2022 would be up to 6 percent.
The Institute of Human Resource Management's pay trend survey released yesterday found that employees received an average pay increase of 1 percent this year - "a noticeable drop" from last year's 1.4 percent.
With the average inflation rate of 1.4 percent from January to August this year, workers saw their real base pay adjustment hit a negative 0.4 percent - the first time it dipped below zero percent in 10 years.
The institute surveyed 115 companies and 162,800 full-time salaried employees from January to September but based the pay adjustment on data provided by 105 firms.
"The average salary increment, at only [1 percent], mirrors organizations' cautious attitude toward pay adjustment as the Delta variant brings economic uncertainty," said institute vice president Lawrence Hung Yu-yun.
"As the pandemic is not going away Hong Kong's economic conditions are a key reason why organizations are guarding their purse strings when it comes to increments."
The survey projected that a pay adjustment next year at 3 percent. The forecast adjustment for this year was for 1.7 percent from 2020 rather the 1 percent seen.
"This reflects that the local economy is reawakening as Covid-19 is increasingly under control," Hung said.
Thirty-seven percent of companies said they will increase pay next year while 6 percent intend to implement a freeze.
More than half of the 105 companies have not produced pay adjustment projections for next year.
The survey also showed 69 percent of companies had this year offered a pay rise, 31 percent implemented a freeze, and 1 percent cut pay. For two years in a row, the top factor behind pay adjustment has been company performance.
For this year, medium-sized companies with between 500 and 1,000 employees provided the biggest pay rise at 2.8 percent, small companies with less than 500 staff offered a rise of 1.4 percent while for large-sized companies with more than 1,000 staff it was a mere 0.7 percent.
Looking to 2022, a citizen named Chan said: "A pay raise is unlikely." The pandemic was continuing, he noted "and the economy has yet to recover."
A female employee thought the chance for her to be given a rise is minimal as the economy is "not too good."
The survey by the Federation of Hong Kong & Kowloon Labour Unions showed 34 percent of 2,512 workers questioned thought a reasonable pay hike for 2022 would be 4-6 percent.
And the federation itself said an increase for 2022 should not be less than 6 percent. The poll, conducted from June to September, also found 70 percent of respondents experienced a pay freeze in the past year. Fifteen percent had cuts.