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Hong Kong Socially Owned Enterprises on the Brink of Protest, COVID-19

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(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A quarter of Hong Kong social enterprises could go out of business by the end of the year, according to a new survey, threatening the jobs of hundreds of employees as the coronavirus pandemic does severe damage to the economy. cities.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the concerns of nearly 600 socially-owned enterprises operating in Hong Kong, which have suffered a sharp decline in business and consumer sentiment since last year due to massive anti-government street protests.

A study of 128 social enterprises – businesses that aim to do well while making a profit – found that one in four is expected to end cash flow within three months if the pandemic continues to affect their income.

It’s a very challenging view, said Chung Wai-shing, vice chairman of the 76-member Hong Kong General Chamber of Social Enterprises, which released the poll this month.

We did not expect such a situation to last for so long and, as a social enterprise, we have been hit as hard as other businesses as we do not rely on donations or funds, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.

About a third of respondents said their profits had fallen by more than half in the past six months, while one in 10 said they had no income at all.

The Hong Kong government has distributed subsidies to help businesses mitigate the pandemic impact since the beginning of this year, but Chung called for more financial assistance.

Chung, who runs a social business that employs people with disabilities in convenience stores, said the sector often works with vulnerable groups, such as unemployed or disabled people for long periods of time.

They are even more vulnerable now and the role of the social enterprise has never been greater to help these marginalized people recover from the effects of the pandemic, he said.

Delicious Express, a Hong Kong-based social enterprise that sells food that employs poor women and people with disabilities, has had to close a store, lay off some employees and cut working hours to survive.

We hope these measures mean we can stay afloat for a longer time, said company founder Eva Mak, who has 13 staff.

Work not only gives them income, most importantly it helps them rebuild trust as many of them were unemployed for a long time, she said on Tuesday.

The Asian Financial Center has detected 4,976 cases of the virus that appeared in central China at the end of last year with 101 deaths.

Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Edited by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or upright. Visit lajme.trust.org

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