Foreign domestic helpers are to have their pay frozen for the second consecutive year, the Government revealed yesterday. Domestic helpers' groups criticised the decision for keeping maids among the lowest-paid workers in the SAR. But one employers' group argued their pay should have been cut because bosses were still facing constraints caused by the Asian economic downturn. The legal minimum wage for overseas domestic workers on new contracts will remain at $3,670 a month - a figure established in February 1999 when the Government reduced the minimum from $3,860 in response to economic pressures. There are about 220,000 overseas domestic helpers in Hong Kong, 70 per cent of them from the Philippines. The secretary-general of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, Eman Villanueva, said: 'We are clearly disappointed by today's news because the economy has been growing rapidly in the last 12 months. We thought the Government should have raised the group's set wage to at least $3,860 - the pre-cut level.' A Government spokesman said: 'After a careful study of changes to earnings of local workers in comparable sectors, and economic conditions since the last review, the Government has concluded the minimum allowable wage for foreign domestic helpers should remain at $3,670.' But the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, Joseph Law, said: 'The authorities should have reviewed the pay system with a view to reducing the level further.'