Hong Kong’s unemployment rate has fallen from 6.8 per cent to 6.4 per cent in the past three months as the Covid-19 pandemic eased, government figures show.

Provisional figures from the Census and Statistics Department released on Thursday show around 7,900 more people were employed between February and April, while around 247,000 Hongkongers remain unemployed.

Covid-19 coronavirus virus mask
Photo: GovHK.

The city saw the highest unemployment rate in 16 years in the first quarter of the year as businesses struggled during the pandemic. “The labour market saw some improvement lately as the local epidemic receded,” Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said on Thursday.

Decreases in unemployment were most distinct in the construction, retail, accommodation and food services sectors.

Law urged members of the public to get vaccinated to prevent against another community outbreak.

“If the local epidemic remains well-contained, the pressure on the labour market will gradually ease in the period ahead,” he said. “To create more favourable conditions for the revival of consumer-facing and tourism-related activities, it is essential for the community to work together to keep the epidemic under control.”

Coronavirus covid-19 virus takeaway
Photo: GovHK.

Coronavirus infections in Hong Kong have subsided in recent months, with the city going almost four weeks without reporting an untraceable locally-transmitted infection. A scheme to relax social distancing regulations in restaurants and entertainment businesses based on vaccination levels was introduced at the end of April.

The government’s second round of Employment Support Scheme payments to subsidise wages ended last November.

‘Set up Unemployment Allowance’

The new figures mean the government should do more to help the city’s unemployed, the Democratic Party’s labour policy spokesperson Sin Cheuk-nam told HKFP.

Coronavirus covid-19 virus
Photo: GovHK.

“The government should raise the amount of the consumption voucher to at least $10,000, or even consider paying cash to more targeted citizens, especially the elderly,” Sin said, referring to HK$5,000 spending vouchers for all Hong Kong residents announced in this year’s budget.

He also called on the government to consider instituting a permanent unemployment allowance if the jobless rate stays at the current level. The government has no plans for a comprehensive unemployment subsidy scheme despite calls from both pro-Beijing lawmakers and pro-democracy labour rights groups.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.