• Fri
  • Aug 29, 2014
  • Updated: 8:53am
NewsHong Kong
EMPLOYMENT

Anger over HK$90 rise in monthly minimum wage for domestic workers

Disappointed unions say new minimum wage is still only HK$150 more than it was 15 years ago and predict it will deepen shortage of recruits

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 9:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 10:44am
 

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Domestic helpers who sign contracts from today will get an additional HK$90 a month after a government decision that upset the workers but pleased their employers.

The new monthly minimum wage is HK$4,010 and helpers whose bosses do not provide food will have their monthly allowance raised by HK$45 to HK$920 a month.

Helpers' unions said that after reductions and freezes during recent tough economic times, the new wage was only HK$150 a month above the 1998 level.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants' Co-ordinating Body, was "very disappointed and angered" by the 2.3 per cent increase and said the supply of helpers would become even more restricted.

He said he made it clear to the Labour Department at a recent meeting that monthly minimum pay should rise to HK$4,500.

But Joseph Law Kwan-din, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, said the government had taken employers' ability to pay into consideration.

He said Hong Kong should still be able to recruit a sufficient number of helpers because of poorer employment conditions in places such as Taiwan, where helpers are given fewer public holidays off.

A government spokesman said the increase was set "after careful consideration of the economic indicators".

He said it was also necessary to strike a balance between what employers could afford and the livelihoods of the helpers.

Helen Bulusan, who has been working in the city for 11 years, said she was very disappointed.

She said some helpers needed to spend HK$1,200 a month on food because employers offered only simple meals such as bread.

Along with other expenses such as phone bills, many helpers had only HK$2,500 left at the end of the month.

Villanueva said a bigger pay rise was justified because of high inflation. He said the wage level had not risen sufficiently over the years and pointed out it was HK$3,860 in 1998.

"I think the shortage [of helpers] will worsen because the wage is not attractive," he said.

"In Canada, the minimum wage for foreign domestic helpers is the same as for the locals.

"New York and California have also approved a bill of rights to give the same minimum wage level to locals and to foreign domestic workers."

The minimum wage in Canada differs among provinces, but it is about C$10 (HK$75) an hour.

The minimum monthly wages for helpers in Taiwan and Singapore are about HK$4,100 and HK$3,000 respectively.

There are more than 300,000 foreign helpers in Hong Kong at present, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia.

As the governments in Manila and Jakarta are planning policies to discourage their citizens from working as helpers overseas, agencies are looking to Bangladesh for new recruits.

There are currently about 100 Bangladeshi helpers in the city.

Technic Employment Service Centre chief Teresa Liu Tsui-lan said Hongkongers were once able to choose helpers from several candidates, but now had to take those offered by agencies.

 

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34

This article is now closed to comments

mercedes2233
Information wanted: How many HK people emigrate overseas and feel justified to demand that the host countries provide x, y and z, ie. housing, food, utilities, medical insurance, and airfares? And write angry letters about their sacrifices in service to those countries? And how many succeed? Thanks.
mercedes2233
I recall that the poverty line is an income of $3600 per month for a single person. From this sum, the poor person has to pay rent, transport, food, electricity, water, clothing etc. A very sad existence. A domestic helper will get $4010 per month, PLUS housing, food, electricity, water, transport, medical insurance, airfares per contract. And she is still complaining?
kcwp
That is only if the person below the poverty line doesn't have a job. Most likely they do have some kind of cash in hand job that doesn't need to pay tax. Let's face it, helpers pay is a joke, it's just that HK people are cheap and look down on our Asian cousins.
mercedes2233
By the same reasoning, surely the FDH also have cash in hand jobs that they don't reveal, so that their income is pretty good and they don't need salary rises at all. Touché.
HK-Explorer
Interesting. People who read SCMP are most likely western or have lived in the West. Comments below are well written thus those commenting are at least University trained. People who read SCMP.com have the disposable cash to do so. Thus everyone in this Forum are from the top 10% of wealthiest people in HK.
The vast majority of comments on SCMP.com seem to reflect the view that domestic helpers receive a competive wage and enjoy a fairly good standard of living.
I just wonder what they must be saying on baby kingdom and Apple daily. I can only assume people are very upset that domestic helpers wages were not lowered by 10%.
EHI
"People who read SCMP.com have the disposable cash to do so. Thus everyone in this Forum are from the top 10% of wealthiest people in HK."
You are probably wrong. From most of the low quality journalism I have been reading here in the past two weeks, I am guessing the readership is either:
1) has an intelligence of less than average;
2) from an expat community of mostly losers who need a source to feed their ego;
3) evangelicals and religious zealots who feel insecure amidst an environment ruled by reason;
4) biting their lips and tolerating the content since there aren't that many alternatives around in the region.
Calling talented entrepreneurs and writers out there, this is your chance to start your own paper to better reflect this region in this century.
chuchu59
What a post! Confrontational, racist and anti-religious all moulded into one. I am no expat but while there are some that I personally dislike there are loads of them that are reasonable and contribute a lot to society. Take your hatred somewhere else mate.
hars
EHI,
Yes, after reading your comments, you are the living proof of your first point, which is very sad but true: "the readership has an intelligence of less than average." It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
mercedes2233
Your last sentence is unwarranted. If anything, many expressed the view that they did not mind paying more if the standard of service improved! They are also paying the recruitment fee, medical insurance, airfares, in addition to the salaries, so that the total cost is considerable, not just the $4010 per month. Given that the helpers only get one day a week off work, most of their living costs are provided by the employers. Employers who are obliged to change their domestic helpers because of unsatisfactory service during a contract of employment are out of pocket considerably. We hear from the articulate helpers of their unfair plight. Some employers have grievances too, including cases of maids putting menstrual blood in soups for the mistresses, and sulking if they don't get their way, or if they are asked to stay in to help with special occasions like Chinese New Year.
By the way, I am not among the 10% wealthiest people in HK, nor do I have a domestic helper.
caractacus
Nobody is forced to employ a helper, but if they choose to do so, the person should be paid a reasonable wage that keeps pace with inflation and be treated as a human being. We know not all helpers are angels, (who is?), but too many HongKongers take out their racist spite on helpless women who are under their thumbs at home.
Again, if you want to hire one, PAY for it.

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