• Fri
  • Apr 18, 2014
  • Updated: 7:48pm
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
  • No
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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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.
mercedes2233
Sure, HK employers are terrible people with terrible terms of employment. What baffles me is, why are FDHs still coming though? Nobody is forcing them to come, I hope.
chanaa
The wage level is in line with HK's peer living standard ie. SG & TW, so on that part i agree with the decision.
But going thru some of the harsh comments here, i think HK people have missed the point. The maids are here to service the families who need to work, put food on the table, roof over the heads & education for their kids. Those who chose to do so, benefits financially, otherwise they might as well stay at home and do the duties of the maid. For the richer set, it helps preserve their lifestyle & independence. In all their family units remain together.
For most of the maids, its out of necessity. To provide for their families back home, to provide for their education, medical. Its a tough sacrifice to leave their young kids, husbands, parents with most going back only once every 2 years. My point is, these maids are human too & we should acknowledge their sacrifice.
mercedes2233
Poor maids. Please don't 'sacrifice' and go home to your 'young kids, husbands, parents', from HK, Canada, Middle East, or wherever. The rest of us wealthy people will try to make do without you.
HK-Explorer
Domestic helpers are paid a fair wage. The government compares wages in their home country, wages paid in other countries. They factor in paid holidays, flights home, free place to stay, free food, not having to pay HK tax and that while in HK domestic helpers are single person households.
$4,000 received by domestic helpers is pure profit after all nesecity expenses. How many people in the poorest 30% of people in HK have $4,000 per person left over after paying basic expenses? A smar domestic helper who is good with their money can save HK$48,000 per year and if they work in HK for 10 years they can save HK $480,000 (maybe double if they invest smartly) and go back to Philippines and retire.
In contrast the poor and medium clas in HK need to work at least 40 years to retire.
I would also say that the majority of domestic helpers living in better houses compared to the lowest 30% of Hong Kong people. The more I think about it the more privalaged domestic helpers appear to poor HK residents.
stoatmonster
sontan0917: your ranting and raving clearly indicates that you are a rabid, misinformed bigot. Go away and refrain from polluting these pages with your nonsense.
sontan0917
please don't listen to the demands of these sucking maids. this bullying and threatening should not be accepted. don't be dependent on these maids who in realty only come here to enjoy and not work. these maids are worried about their phone bills. why will the employer bear their luxury expenses. the citizens of hong kong don't get enough jobs and salaries and these maids expect employers to increase their salaries otherwise they will not work. are they out of their mind. this threatening of eman vellaneuva will not be accepted.get out of hong kong if you are not satisfied by the pay and work
chanaa
sontan0917, did your husband or boyfriend run away with a frgn maid ? You poor sad thing
mercedes2233
No, you did, you miserable character.
mercedes2233
No, you did, you miserable creature. Quid pro quo.
wwong888
jesus you are clearly mentally unstable...
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.
HK-Explorer
Hong Kong acts as an employer and Philippines / Indonesia act as an employee. Domestic Helpers have the ability to apply to any country to work and do so. They can and do try and go to the country that will pay them the most. (They are highly mobile looking for the best payment).
Hong Kong as an employer needs to pay at a level to attract the quality / quantity of worker required (just like any employer).
It appears Hong Kong has analysed what it's closest competitors pay (Taiwan / Singapore) pay and competed on pay / benefits.
US /UK/CA are not competitors of Hong Kong as they take just a fraction of the 300,000 taken by Hong Kong. Western countries also have much more stringent requirements for immigrants than HK.
ejmciii
Perhaps if your means do not allow you to pay an extra 90 HKD per month to someone who cooks your means, washes your clothes, takes care of the elderly and kids, then you should not have a helper and instead save your pennies. Cheap buggers. You should be ashamed of yourselves, but my guess is a feeling of shame and compassion are not in your DNA.
mercedes2233
The proposed increase is 2.3%. Did you think local workers get a phenomenal raise annually from their employers? And they face the full brunt of the increased cost of living in HK, whereas domestic helpers appear from another comment here to be exposed mainly to the cost of phone bills. DHs are employed to cook, wash etc., and have been assessed by the Govt to be worth a specific salary. If you don't agree with it, by all means choose another profession or place of work. There is no need to denigrate the HK public.
HK_eh!
many cases of friends bringing their maids along on holidays to Canada, and they "run away" while there.
it's not like US/UK/Canada are opening the gates to enter for maids in those countries.

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