HC Deb 12 November 1952 vol 507 cc48-9W
64. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the number of registered factory workers in Hong Kong; how many of them are wholly unemployed; how many working short time; what is the cause; and what grants are made to tide the workers over their periods of unemployment.

Mr. Lyttelton

97,014 factory workers were registered as employed at the end of September, 1952. Returns of registered factory workers are required from concerns employing 20 or more persons, but there are many small concerns which submit no returns. Figures for those uneemployed or working short time are not available, and it would be impossible under Hong Kong conditions to assess the total number of employable factory workers.

There is, however, known to be consierable unemployment in Hong Kong due to the presence of many thousands of refugees, the closing of the frontiers to China, and current trade restrictions. The latter include the United Nations embargo on strategic exports to China, import restrictions, particularly in the United States, Australia, Indonesia and Pakistan, and the effect of rising Japanese competition.

No workable system of Government unemployment relief has yet been devised, but trade unions are encouraged to provide benefits for their members, and the worst effects of unemployment are mitigated by mutual aid within the family and clan.

The development of a system of unemployment relief based on contributions by workers, employers and Government is hampered by the unstable nature of the population and the influx of refugees.

65. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that most of the Chinese concerns in Hong Kong still operate a seven-day week of nine hours each; and what action is being taken to bring about a reduction of working hours in factories.

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes. The Labour Department does its best to secure a reduction.