Construction workers severely hit by economic crisis
In mid-November, Las Vegas gaming giant Sands decided to suspend its project in Macau as its US-listed share price had been falling sharply. Another issue halting the construction project was difficulty in accessing credit. This suspension caused 4,000 Hong Kong construction workers to lose their jobs. They are among 11,000 laid off Sands construction workers; the other 5,000 are from China and 2,000 from Macau.
Currently, there are 60,000 Hongkongers working as construction workers, including 10,000 construction workers in Macau. If those working in Macau go back to Hong Kong and fail to get a job then it would shoot the unemployment rate in the industry to 13%. This is the worst level of job losses in the construction sector since 2003 when many construction projects were suspended because of the SARS outbreak.
To deal with this situation, the Hong Kong government is planning to boost infrastructure sector by prioritizing laid-off local workers to be employed in the new projects. At the end of November, the governments of Hong Kong, Macao and Ghuangdong endorsed a report that construction of Hong Kong-Macao-Zuhai bridge could begin next year without waiting for approval from Beijing. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employee Union General Union estimated that the bridge would only create jobs for 1,000 workers, as most workers employed would be from the Chinese mainland. Other infrastructure works prepared by Hong Kong government are The Central reclamation and Central-Wan Chai bypass. The projects are expected to generate 10,000 jobs and other minor works projects can add 12,000 jobs next year.
From 15 October to 1 December, more than 50 companies in Hong Kong had cut jobs. Almost 6,000 people in Hong Kong lost their jobs, of whom 4,000 construction workers from Hong Kong were laid off by Sands. So far in Hong Kong, the financial industry has shed 1,780 jobs. The property and construction has shed 1,307 jobs, the restaurant and catering sector 1,029 jobs, and the retail sector, 929 jobs.
South China Morning Post, 18 September, 15 and 28 November, and 1 December 2008; BBC (available at www.bbc.co.uk), 13 November 2008