• Fri
  • Jul 25, 2014
  • Updated: 10:41pm
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
 

Poll

  • Yes: 17%
  • No: 83%
1 Oct 2013
  • Yes
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Total number of votes recorded: 315

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

anson
IRDHK is quite right, I think. The middle class, not top bosses, has been far too lethargic in accepting unsociable long hours to cater to the needs of their bosses to the detriment of their families. If this was only an exception then it wouldn't matter but the fact that it is the norm is detrimental to society as a whole now and in the future. A simple solution would be to set a standard working week. Bosses can then decide if they want to pay overtime. And before the 'Business Before Family Brigade' start crying foul I would simply say one word phrase to you - Improved Efficiency. Measure efficiency and improve it. Efficiency doesn't mean asking your secretary to do your shopping for you because you say you can't trust your maid!
HK_eh!
it needs to be compared to the average pay increase for people in HK. Don't think anyone is getting 7-10% pay increases even with inflation and the debasement of HK linked to USA money printing currency.
EHI
That scene at the HSBC building is perhaps one of the most horrific thing I have ever come across in Hong Kong.
dynamco
The whole system sucks and is racist
The Govt does not want 100,000 helpers with permanent ID cards voting Filipino reps into Legco
Hence the background of the inability to be granted permanent residence to maids
Making them return to Philippines to change employer sucks
Using Philippine 'agencies' to train and recruit them sucks
Using local agencies to handle the paperwork sucks and the whole process costs 10k
Meanwhile what happened to Bowtie's pet 'employee retraining fund' aka the maid tax money that was sucked out of employers ?
HK-Explorer
If domestic helpers were paid CAN minimum wage (10 hours per day X 5 days) they would be on $20,000 per month. I think at that cost the number of domestic helpers would drop from 300,000 to 5,000 and Hong Hong would be a far better place to live.
Without helpers parents would come home on time from work and spend more time with their kids. The government would also create more after school classes like in the west.
Higher wages for domestic helpers = less jobs for them.
Why doesn't HK push mainland domestic helpers?
HK_eh!
believe the system started long ago under British rule. But no less bad or good than other countries employing maids including the middle east which is much harsher as a working environment than HK.
carmeledwin
You need to understand that from day one domestic helpers were not allow to have permanent residency rights and not due to whether Hong Kong Government wants them to have Filipino reps in Legco, that was even before there were political parties. There are Filipinos who are residents and if they have enough support could get themselves voted into Legco.
In theory even if they only renew their contract they should go home after every two years, for after all that is also the only chance of them seeing their family members.
Please remember that the Government of the Philippines need them to have a certificate that certified that they are trained before they can even leave their country.
If you hire one who is here in Hong Kong, you can do away with the agency. Nobody is forcing you to use an agency.
anson
Why on earth would anyone compare the Canadian minimum wage to that of Hong Kong in this context? Does HK offer a minimum wage of $75 per hour to locals? No! As to only having $2500 left, in part because of phone bills, why not try letter writing. Sorry I'm from a different generation. You earn money and choose how to spend it yourself.
Maybe they have grounds for higher pay but the arguments put forward are weak in the extreme. Domestic helpers should perhaps consider electing a stronger and more capable representative.
carmeledwin
Agree. They forgot that in Canada, the helpers have to pay for their own food and lodgings, they have to pay Canadian Income Tax. They are liable for their own medical insurance. They also have to pay VAT for purchases. In Canada, they will also have to have a car, and pay for petrol etc, for public transportation is not like Hong Kong, and often they work and live far away from downtown. Not to mention that in some parts of Canada, you get -30 Degrees in winter (with wind chill factor taken into account).
mercedes2233
Agree. If Canada pays better, the domestic helpers can choose to go there. Why expect HK to match Canadian conditions? Please note that the phone bills would be even higher.

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