I’m always amazed at the sight of a huge skyscraper wrapped up in intricate webs of sky-high walls and platforms strong enough to hold a legion of construction workers – but all just erected out of bamboo.
It’s unbelievable that in modern times like this, shiny new office buildings or old residential areas are being built and renovated by workers that climb on bamboo rods that are just six to seven metres long.
But that’s the way it is and hopefully will always be in Hong Kong. The workers are skilled and have been trained for many years, so they know how to build a safe and strong scaffolding on any kind of imaginable site.
There are about 1,750 registered bamboo scaffolders, according to the Construction Workers Registration Board, and roughly 200 scaffolding companies are operating in the city.
New recruits have to undergo a training with the Hong Kong Construction Industry Council to obtain a licence – there is a 100-day course they can sign up for. Then they have to take a test, otherwise they can’t work for a scaffolding company in Hong Kong.
It’s a tiring and demanding job, with lots of unsocial hours and hard work. Worse, the scaffolding experts don’t earn much. Young recruits start from HK$350 a day, while old hands can make around HK$10,000 a month. Hopefully this skilful labour will remain in Hong Kong, as it truly is unique.