Wage and payroll statistics for March 2011
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Overall wage and payroll statistics

     According to the figures released today (June 23) 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 4.9% in nominal terms in March 2011 over a year earlier.  

     About 63% of the companies reported increase in average wage rates in March 2011 compared with a year ago.  30% of the companies recorded decrease in average wage rates over the same period.  The remaining 7% 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 0.2% in real terms in March 2011 over a year earlier.

     As for payroll, the index of payroll per person engaged for all the industry sections surveyed increased by 7.2% in nominal terms in the first quarter of 2011 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 3.2% in real terms in the first quarter of 2011 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 March 2011, ranging from 1.7% to 6.5%.

     For the real wage indices, year-on-year increases of 0.2% to 1.7% were observed in the import/export, wholesale and retail trades; accommodation and food service activities; financial and insurance activities; and professional and business services sections in March 2011.   On the other hand, year-on-year decreases of 1.1% to 2.9% were recorded in the manufacturing; transportation;  real estate leasing and maintenance management; and personal services sections.

     The year-on-year changes in the nominal and real wage indices for the selected industry sections from March 2010 to March 2011 are shown in Table 1.

     As for the nominal indices of payroll per person engaged, year-on-year increases ranging from 3.8% to 16.5% were observed in the manufacturing; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities; import/export and wholesale trades; retail trade; transportation, storage, postal and courier services; accommodation and food service activities; information and communications; financial and insurance activities; and real estate activities sections in the first quarter of 2011.  Meanwhile, the professional and business services; and social and personal services sections  recorded decreases of 4.8% and 2.3% respectively over a year earlier.

     For the real payroll indices, year-on-year increases of 0.7% to 12.2% were recorded in the manufacturing; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities; import/export and wholesale trades; retail trade; transportation, storage, postal and courier services; accommodation and food service activities; financial and insurance activities; and real estate activities sections in the first quarter of 2011.  Yet for the professional and business services; and social and personal services sections, decreases of 8.3% and 5.9% were recorded respectively.  For the information and communications section, virtually no change was observed.

     The year-on-year changes in the nominal and real indices of payroll per person engaged for selected industry sections from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011 are shown in Table 2.  The quarterly changes in the seasonally adjusted nominal and real indices of payroll per person engaged between the first quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 are shown in Table 3.

Commentary

     A Government spokesman said that the year-on-year increase in nominal wage rate accelerated further to 4.9% in March 2011.  Increases were recorded in all the selected industry sections, in tandem with the broad-based economic growth.  After discounting for inflation, the average wage rate had a modest gain of 0.2% in real terms, as against nil change in December 2010.

     The spokesman further pointed out that payroll per person engaged, as an indicator of the average income of workers including overtime and other irregular payments, rose more visibly by 7.2% in nominal terms and 3.2% in real terms in the first quarter of 2011 over a year earlier, which were distinctly larger than the corresponding increases of 3.1% and 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2010.  Widespread improvements were also seen across almost all major sections.

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 number of hours of work and 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, March 2011". The C&SD has recently conducted a review on the printing of statistical publications and has decided that the print version of "Quarterly Report of Wage and Payroll Statistics" will no longer be produced starting from this edition.  Nevertheless, the publication is still available for downloading free of charge from the website of the C&SD at www.censtatd.gov.hk/products_and_services/products/publications/statistical_report/labour/index_cd_B1050009_dt_detail.jsp .

     For enquiries on wage and payroll statistics, please contact the Wages and Labour Costs Statistics Section (1) of the C&SD at 2887 5550.

Ends/Thursday, June 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:32

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