As part of our push for open data, Webb-site tonight publishes the first detailed analysis of approved claims under the so-called "Employment Support Scheme", including league tables of the top 5,000 recipients and a search function for all recipients.

ESS Revealed
13 December 2020

Remember the HK Government's misguided and wasteful "Employment Support Scheme"? All the problems we predicted in April came true. Of course most employers did the rational thing and fulfilled their duty to shareholders or members by claiming their entitlements. Not to have done so was equivalent to claiming it and then sending a voluntary tax cheque to the Government. The exceptions were mostly those who could not meet the condition of the scheme in the relevant 3-month phase, which was not to lay off employees (on a net basis) since the March 2020 payroll.

When the scheme was announced, the Government promised to publish a list of all approved claims, the amounts involved, and the number of employees which the employer committed to maintain. Well, it sort of fulfilled that promise, but the details were obfuscated as follows:

It's such a shame that despite the HK Government's claim of running a "Smart City", it is so backwards with open data. We couldn't have matched Business Registrations if we wanted to, because there's no open dataset of those, only a manual search page. Everywhere you look, captchas get in the way.

Having liberated the data, we have matched claimants of over 96% of the payout in each phase to known organisations in Webb-site Who's Who. The published files on phase 1 have not been updated since 21-Oct-2020 so we assume that is nearly over, apart from minor adjustments. The files on phase 2 are still being updated with batches of approved payouts, the latest update being last Thursday (10-Dec-2020), with more to come.

Phase 1 adds up to HK$44.79bn and phase 2 so far is HK$40.86bn. The total so far is HK$85.65bn, beyond the original HK$81bn budget, and our total doesn't include the administration costs (PriceWaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services Ltd got the job for an undisclosed fee), nor does it include one-off payments of HK$7,500 to self-employed applicants with MPF schemes. Notably, several banks, having held back in phase 1 perhaps under Government pressure, went for it in phase 2.

The data provide a unique snapshot into the private-sector employers of HK, including non-profits. Not everyone claimed, but there were claims relating to 1,942,699 employees in Phase 1, compared to 2.596m enrolled employees in MPF schemes and a further 0.357m in ORSO schemes at 31-Mar-2020. Some employers were not eligible in respect of staff working on outsourced Government contracts or because the employer is a statutory body such as the Airport Authority, the Hospital Authority or the universities.

So without further ado:

Sadly, the ESS files do not disclose the ultimate parent companies of claimants, so we can't consolidate the claims by company group without the hard work of linking up all the subsidiaries, which we have only done in a subset of cases in Webb-site Who's Who.

©, 2020

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