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How many lattes can you buy on Hong Kong’s minimum wage?

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A Hong Kong academic is urging businesses and the government to offer a fair pay to the city’s workers, after a global comparison once again confirms the limited purchasing power of minimum wage-earners.

Last year, professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, of the University of Hong Kong’s department of social work and social administration, used the price of a Starbucks grande latte in major cities around the world to compare how many cups of coffee the local minimum wage will buy you.

According to the so-called Latte Index, Hong Kong’s minimum wage-earners can buy a meagre 1.08 cups of coffee with their hourly pay. This compares poorly to other developed cities where the minimum wage can buy you 2.03 (New York), 2.58 (London), or even 3.59 (Zurich) lattes.

Closer to home, cities like Tokyo (1.68) and Seoul (1.13) did slightly better, while Beijing is near the bottom of the list with only 0.57 cups.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Yip is now urging the business sector to fulfil its social responsibilities and called on the government to raise the minimum wage. Companies ought to take into account the needs of consumers, and the government should help make its citizens’ lives less hard, he said.

“A fair society does not mean everybody has an equal share, but at least one should not differ from others too much,” he told the newspaper.

Hong Kong’s minimum wage is currently HK$34.5 per hour, after it was raised by HK$2 effective 1 May 2017.

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