by Ng Shui Yan Sharon

Money is apparently not the only reward for a day of hard work. Consider the time coupon, a new form of pay that is increasingly popular in Hong Kong.

Time coupon is a return of participation in food-manufacturing, farming or sales conducted by the Organizing Committee of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Alliance instead of money. When workers work for an hour, 20 time coupons will be obtained.

CSSA Alliance is an organization that concerns the group of people who applied for compensative social security allowance, major in Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai.

“Farming, food manufacturing or merchandising are ways to earn time coupons, but the job categories are diverse,” said Janis Fan, a committee member of CSSA Alliance, a non- profit group in Hong Kong. Janis is responsible for the administration and the organization of the time coupon.

The time coupon campaign started in 2003 in Hong Kong Tin Shui Wai due to the location’s special demography.

The monopoly of shopping center in estates leading people living nearby had limited job opportunities, cross-district employment and high proportion of mainland immigrants. These gave the CSSA Alliance the idea of helping the needy by giving them jobs rather than money. Janis explains that coming with an idea that helping those needy by not giving them money, but giving them a chance to feed themselves with dignity.

Fan believes the campaign can give neighborhoods a competitive edge and increase a sense of community.

Tam Yuen-fan (Fan-jie), who used to be a domestic helper working in Kowloon Tong, is a beneficiary of this campaign.

“My left leg’s bone was fractured when I accidentally slipping on the floor in the wet market. My son and daughter refused to let me work in my former workplace because it is too far away from home,” said Fan-jie. She then joined the time coupon campaign at the Tin Sau Bazaar.

“It is just few steps away from my home. My duty is selling organic vegetable every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I can earn 20 time coupons in every service hour. Then, they can be used to buy organic vegetable farmed by other members, and join classes and one day local tours organized by the CSSA Alliance,” she said.

The campaign has also given housewives the chance and flexibility to work on their own time. However, Fan pointed out that the campaign is facing much difficulties.

“The use of time coupon is not enough to cover the cost so the products sold in the bazaar are priced based in a portion of 7 to 3 where 70% are paid in cash and 30% can be paid in time coupons,” she said.

Fan believes there is a need in providing a more convenient workplace and affordable workload so as to attract more people to work under the time coupon system. She hopes that the government can provide some help and help promoting the campaign.

“We want to find a field for farming and a venue for holding a bazaar other than the Tin Sau Bazaar in order to reach more people and let more to know about this campaign,” said Fan.

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