Migrant workers in Hong Kong need help with financial planning

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 8:40pm

Tomorrow is International Migrants Day, observed worldwide and raising awareness of migrant issues, experiences, rights and taking action to ensure the protection of the growing number of migrants in the world.

It is a fitting day to acknowledge the 340,000-plus migrant domestic workers who work behind the scenes in our lives in Hong Kong.

We have employed domestic workers, or helpers, for more than 35 years. Over time we have come to realise that they have contributed to our success by providing us, and our family, with freedoms we would not otherwise enjoy. Put simply, helpers keep the home fires burning, which enables us to do more.

Over the years we’ve also become aware that for many helpers, their time in Hong Kong does not always end in lasting financial freedom.

In fact, we do not remember one happy ending for any of the domestic workers who have worked so hard for us for years and years in Hong Kong. None have been able to return home to a financially secure retirement.

One particularly sad case was a domestic worker who had worked for us for 10 years who returned home with HK$200,000 which we gave her as a retirement gift, only to have her son spend the money within 18 months. This was supposed to last the rest of her life.

Generosity from the employers is not enough. Like all of us, migrant domestic workers need support and tools to develop good money management behaviour; otherwise they go home with no viable livelihood opportunities or retirement plans.

Nowadays, we are supporters of Enrich, an organisation that equips domestic workers with the knowledge and tools they need to make the most of their time in Hong Kong. Enrich works to ensure migrant workers, when they go home at the end of years of hard work, are not worse off than when they arrived.

Established in 2007, it provides financial and empowerment education to migrant domestic workers in their own languages on Saturdays and Sundays.

It also provides one-on-one financial counselling for migrant women, with specific financial questions for who need support in managing loans. Enrich is doing impactful work and we encourage your readers and their helpers to learn more about them and their workshops (www.enrichhk.org).

Eliza and Michael McCoy, Central