Hong Kong domestic helpers wait on wage review

Campaigners want pay rise of HK$790, but start-up CEO says government likely to raise it by inflation rate

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 6:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 11:12pm

Workers and campaigners are pushing for the minimum salary for domestic workers to be increased by HK$790 to HK$5,000 a month, with the government expected to announce the result of a wage review in the coming days.

The minimum wage for foreign domestic workers, which is revised annually, is currently HK$4,210. The latest increase was announced in September last year, when helpers received a rise of HK$100.

A Labour Department spokesman declined to give an exact date for the announcement, but he said that “the review is ongoing.” The Post understands the new figure is likely to be revealed on Friday or early next month.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and his Filipino counterpart met last Friday. Cheung said later the review would consider “a basket of economic and social indicators.”

“We will take account of all factors before us ... We have to balance the interests of helpers and employers,” he said.

Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, general manager of the Mission for Migrant Workers, said: “We do respect the fact that the government considers employers’ position, but we also hope they will listen to us ... If we are happy, there will be happier households.”

Some 1,000 workers took to the streets earlier this month demanding a pay rise of HK$790 .

But the government was unlikely to meet the workers’ demand, said Laurence Fauchon, former banker and CEO of HelperChoice, an online start-up that matches helpers and employers.

“Based on the government’s inflation forecast of 2.3 per cent for this year, we would expect a similar increase in the minimum wage,” she said.

A study conducted by non-profit organisation Justice Centre found that 57.7 per cent of domestic workers received less than the minimum wage.

“What is most troubling is that, unlike in other sectors, instead of being seen as the minimum floor, the minimum wage for domestic helpers is seen as the standard rate,” Justice Centre advocacy officer Victoria Wisniewski Otero said.

Hong Kong’s median monthly income rose more than 15 per cent to HK$20,700 a month between 1998 and 2012, but the minimum wage for foreign domestic workers increased only 3.9 per cent (HK$150) in the same period.

In addition to paying domestic workers a monthly wage, employers are legally required to provide accommodation to their helpers, as well as food or a food allowance of HK$995 per month.

There are about 345,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.