Mohammad Ati, a 22-year-old man of Pakistani origins nicknamed Golden, discovered how little bargaining power he has as a worker after joining a strike on Monday to protest new rules from his employer, the food company Deliveroo.
On Wednesday, news website HK01.com published a feature story about Golden, who spoke of the difficulties ethnic minorities face in the job market in Hong Kong if their Chinese proficiency is poor.
Golden came to Hong Kong with his family when he was a kid. He studied at a local school until his third year in secondary school. He learned to understand and speak fluent Cantonese but is unable to recognize Chinese characters or write any of them.
“The characters are too difficult for me,” Golden said. He admits that this limitation is a hindrance to getting a better job.
After quitting school, Golden worked as salesperson, a courier, a security guard and a waiter, earning between HK$12,000 and HK$16,000 (US$1,535 to US$2,046) a month in each job.
When Deliveroo entered the local market and offered higher salaries, many ethnic minorities in Hong Kong took up those jobs. Golden was now able to earn HK$825 for working 11 hours a day – or about HK$22,000 a month, with four rest days.
Not only did the higher salary appeal but Golden – who joined Deliveroo about a year ago – said he enjoyed the job as he likes to ride a motorbike. The company’s translation services mean finding addresses in Chinese is not a problem.
However, the company recently changed its payment structure, which riders believe will result in lower pay. More than 50 riders staged a strike outside the company’s office on Monday.
Golden said he suddenly realized that he had no rights or protection in the job, and that the only way he knows of being able to earn a better living in Hong Kong would be to gain a university degree and better Chinese proficiency.
“(If you have) a degree, you can talk… At least you can get a permanent job,” Golden said.
“I [have] set a deadline for myself. I’ll sell my motorbikes and will use the money and my savings to study a degree course and to learn Chinese to get a better job.”
Golden’s ultimate goal is to open a restaurant serving Islamic foods.