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Wage and payroll statistics for December 2012
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Overall wage and payroll statistics

     According to the figures released today (March 26) by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), the average wage rate for all the selected industry sections surveyed, as measured by the wage index, increased by 5.1% in nominal terms in December 2012 over a year earlier.

     About 76% of the companies reported increase in average wage rates in December 2012 compared with a year ago. 20% of the companies recorded decrease in average wage rates over the same period. The remaining 4% reported virtually no change in average wage rates.

     After discounting the changes in consumer prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index (A), the overall average wage rate for all the selected industry sections surveyed increased by 0.9% in real terms in December 2012 over a year earlier.

     As for payroll, the index of payroll per person engaged for all the industry sections surveyed increased by 5.9% in nominal terms in the fourth quarter of 2012 over a year earlier.

     After discounting the changes in consumer prices as measured by the Composite Consumer Price Index, the average payroll per person engaged increased by 2.0% in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2012 over a year earlier.

     The wage rate includes basic wages and other regular and guaranteed allowances and bonuses. Payroll includes elements covered by wage rate as well as other irregular payments to workers such as discretionary bonuses and overtime allowances. The payroll statistics therefore tend to show relatively larger quarter-to-quarter changes, affected by the number of hours actually worked and the timing of payment of bonuses and back-pay.

Sectoral changes

     For the nominal wage indices, year-on-year increases were recorded in all selected industry sections in December 2012, ranging from 1.6% to 8.4%.

     For the real wage indices, year-on-year increases ranging from 1.8% to 4.0% were recorded in the accommodation service (covering hotels, guesthouses, boarding houses and other establishments providing short term accommodation) and food service activities; financial and insurance activities; real estate leasing and maintenance management; and personal services sections in December 2012. On the other hand, year-on-year decreases of 0.5% to 2.5% were recorded in the manufacturing; import/export, wholesale and retail trades; transportation; and professional and business services sections.

     The year-on-year changes in the nominal and real wage indices for the selected industry sections from December 2011 to December 2012 are shown in Table 1.

     As for the nominal indices of payroll per person engaged, year-on-year increases ranging from 2.1% to 9.9% were observed in all selected industry sections in the fourth quarter of 2012.

     For the real payroll indices, year-on-year increases ranging from 0.3% to 5.9% were recorded in the manufacturing; import/export and wholesale trades; retail trade; transportation, storage, postal and courier services; accommodation service (covering hotels, guesthouses, boarding houses and other establishments providing short term accommodation) and food services activities; information and communications; real estate activities; professional and business services; and social and personal services sections in the fourth quarter of 2012. On the other hand, year-on-year decrease of 1.6% was recorded in the sewerage, waste management and remediation activities section. The real payroll index for the financial and insurance activities section remained virtually unchanged when compared with that in the fourth quarter of 2011.

     The year-on-year changes in the nominal and real indices of payroll per person engaged for selected industry sections from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012 are shown in Table 2. The quarterly changes in the seasonally adjusted nominal and real indices of payroll per person engaged between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012 are shown in Table 3.

Commentary

     Thanks to the steady domestic demand and vibrant inbound tourism, the labour market remained rather resilient. Nominal wages continued to record a visible growth at 5.1% year-on-year in December 2012, after a 4.8% increase in September 2012. An across-the-board improvement was observed, with notable gains in accommodation and food service activities, and personal services. Discounting for inflation, the overall wages sustained real growth of 0.9% in December 2012, higher than the 0.4% increase in September 2012.

     Payroll per person engaged, which covers discretionary bonuses and other irregular payments, also rose by 5.9% year-on-year in nominal terms in the fourth quarter of 2012, following a 6.3% increase in the preceding quarter. As with nominal wages, pay hikes were seen across-the-board. In real terms, the overall payroll went up by 2.0% in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to a 3.2% growth in the previous quarter.

Other information

     Both wage indices and payroll indices are compiled quarterly based on the results of the Labour Earnings Survey (LES) conducted by the C&SD.

     Wage statistics are conceptually different from the payroll statistics. Firstly, wage rate for an employee refers to the sum earned for his normal hours of work. It covers basic wages and other regular and guaranteed allowances and bonuses, but excludes earnings from overtime work and discretionary bonuses, which are however included in payroll per person engaged. Secondly, the payroll index of an industry is an indicator of the simple average payroll received per person engaged in the industry. Its movement is therefore affected by changes in wage rates, number of hours of work and occupational composition in the industry. In contrast, the wage index of an industry is devised to reflect the pure changes in wage rate, with the occupational composition between two successive statistical periods being kept unchanged. In other words, the wage index reflects the change in the price of labour. Thirdly, wage index only covers employees up to the supervisory level (i.e. not including managerial and professional employees), whereas payroll index covers employees at all levels and proprietors actively engaged in the work of the establishment. Because of these conceptual and enumeration differences between payroll and wage statistics, the movements in payroll indices and in wage indices do not necessarily match closely with each other.

     It should also be noted that different consumer price indices are used for compiling the real indices of wage and payroll to take into account the differences in their respective occupation coverage. Specifically, the Composite Consumer Price Index, being an indicator of overall consumer prices, is taken as the price deflator for payroll of workers at all levels of the occupational hierarchy. The Consumer Price Index (A), being an indicator of consumer prices for the relatively low expenditure group, is taken as the price deflator for wages in respect of employees engaged in occupations up to the supervisory level.

     Detailed breakdowns of the payroll and wage statistics are published in the "Quarterly Report of Wage and Payroll Statistics, December 2012". Users can download this publication free of charge from the website of the C&SD (www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp210.jsp?productCode=B1050009).

     For enquiries on wage and payroll statistics, please contact the Wages and Labour Costs Statistics Section (1) of the C&SD (Tel.: 2887 5550 or email: [email protected]).

Ends/Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:30

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