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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Revealed: the areas where Hong Kong employers pay domestic helpers the least

Those living in Ma On Shan pay a mere HK$27 above minimum wage, followed by employers in other parts of New Territories, like Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 September, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 4:06pm

Employers who live in Ma On Shan, in the New Territories, are paying their domestic helpers the least. The average salary was HK$4,237 – just HK$27 above the legal minimum of HK$4,210, according to a survey conducted by HelperChoice.

The online platform, which matches employers with domestic workers at no cost to helpers, analysed data from 2,000 recent job ads posted by its users. The study comes as the government is due to announce a review of foreign domestic workers’ wages this month.

After Ma On Shan, the areas (with at least 50 hires) where employers pay helpers the least are Tsuen Wan (HK$4,265); Tuen Mun (HK$4,266); Tseung Kwan O/Hang Hau (HK$4,289); and Yuen Long (HK$4,292) – all in the New Territories.

Overall, according to the study, the mean salary offered to helpers across Hong Kong, including the New Territories, was HK$4,397 – HK$187 more than the current minimum wage.

The survey found that employers on Hong Kong Island offered 4.4 per cent more than the minimum required rate on average.

“Unsurprisingly, our data shows that domestic helpers tend to earn more in Hong Kong’s affluent areas – including coastal towns and the island’s central district,” said HelperChoice founder Laurence Fauchon, a French expat who started the company in 2012.

Expat families

Among all locations, employers in Stanley, in the southern district of Hong Kong Island, seemed to be paying their domestic helpers the most. On average, domestic helpers there received HK$5,081 a month – $871 more than the minimum.

The next best rate by area was at Victoria Peak, where helpers were offered $4,986 on average, followed by Deep Water Bay (HK$4,934), Repulse Bay (HK$4,719) and Clear Water Bay (HK$4,661).

According to Fauchon, 58 per cent of the ads analysed were posted by local families and 42 per cent by expats families in the first half of 2016.

The highest salary on the HelperChoice platform over the survey period came from an employer in Mid-Levels, who offered HK$7,000 a month.

The next highest offers – all at HK$6,500 a month – were from employers in Happy Valley, Sai Kung, Tai Po, Pok Fu Lam and North Point.

Care for children

“While the affluence of an area clearly plays a big role in determining helpers’ salaries, other factors which sometimes lead to better salaries include specialist skills, such as having a driver’s licence or nursing experience,” Fauchon said.

Most of HelperChoice’s registered employers, both locals and expats, were looking for domestic helpers who were able to care for young children and for pets, she added.

Earlier this year, non-profit organisation Justice Centre released a study that showed that 57.7 per cent of domestic workers received less than the minimum allowable amount. When the survey was conducted, the minimum wage was HK$4,110. It was increased to HK$4,210 in September last year.

According to the study, which included more than 1,000 helpers, while Hong Kong’s median monthly income rose over 15 per cent between 1998 and 2012 to HK$20,700 a month, the minimum wage for migrant domestic workers increased only 3.9 per cent (HK$150) during the same period.

Wage rise protest

In Hong Kong, employers should also provide accommodation for their foreign domestic helpers as well as free food or a food allowance of HK$995 per month.

On Sunday, domestic helpers staged a protest, gathering almost 1,000 people, calling for a raise of HK$790 – which would bring the monthly wage to HK$5,000.

In Singapore, where there are some 230,000 foreign domestic helpers, the minimum wage of those from the Philippines and Indonesia is S$550 (HK$3,148), whereas domestic helpers from Myanmar receive S$450 (HK$2,575). Like those in Hong Kong, foreign domestic workers in Singapore are required to live with their employers.

In Taiwan, the minimum salary for domestic workers is NT$17,000 (HK$4,186).