Give helpers minimum wage, but make them pay their own bills

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 January, 2010, 12:00am

I refer to the article ('Lamentations for a lost decade', December 31), which contained a number of statistics.

What stood out was the average waitress salary of HK$8,140 and median household income of HK$17,250 which means HK$8,625 per parent. According to the Census and Statistics Department, in June, cleaners earned an average wage of HK$5,124.

If waitresses and a lot of people doing jobs below their wage level all have to pay rent, food and utilities, then how is it that domestic helpers, who are earning HK$3,580 net, can expect to be included in the minimum wage bill? If they were included and still expected the current benefits then their gross wage would be well above HK$10,000. Do they really believe this is realistic?

I have recently noted their proposal that they should work eight hours a day, with eight hours for leisure and eight for rest.

I have discussed this subject at length with a lot of expatriates and locals and can safely say that we would all be glad to pay our domestic helpers more, but then they should live separately. They could turn up for work like office workers. Travel time to and from work would not be included as work time. This would eat into their leisure time, but such is the case for the rest of the population.

Perhaps they could turn up at 9am, have lunch from 1pm to 2 pm and be off by 6pm. This is a typical day for office workers. Actually it is less, given that most people in Hong Kong regularly work overtime.

These eight hours would be done like any typical Hong Kong worker, without unnecessary phone calls, television breaks, rests and stoppages. They would most likely get more done than they do at present, working, as they claim, for 12 hours.

They would pay for their own transport, lodgings, food, utilities, medical and return airfare.

I am all for giving my domestic helper this new rate, at least double the current government mandated salary, because according to my simple calculations I would still be paying less then I am now and could convert my helper's room into a study room for myself.

Prakash Mahbubani, Mid-Levels