More than 70 per cent of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong work over 13 hours a day, a university survey has found. But some of these workers do not get the full salary they are entitled to, according to the poll of more than 2,000 helpers in the city. The survey was conducted by Chinese University’s Research Centre on Migration and Mobility in 2017 to learn about the employment conditions of the more than 380,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Questionnaires were distributed on Sundays at places where live-in helpers gathered, and the centre received more than 2,000 replies from Filipino and Indonesian workers. Life as an ‘invisible but essential’ Filipino maid in Hong Kong One of the researchers, Professor Raees Begum Baig, said the live-in nature of the job made it hard to define work hours. “It is very hard to define what is formal work and what is not,” she said. It is very hard to define what is formal work and what is not Raees Begum Baig, researcher Of the 2,017 participants, 61.7 per cent said they worked 13 to 16 hours a day. Another 8.9 per cent said they worked more than 16 hours, while 26.5 per cent reported working nine to 12 hours daily. Females workers in Hong Kong in 2017 worked an average of 43.3 hours a week, according to official figures, lower than the numbers reported by the helpers. Just under 4 per cent of the domestic workers said they had been physically abused. But Professor Roger Chung Yat-nork, who also worked on the study, said the actual figure could be higher. “Some people would find this question too sensitive,” he said. “It is safe to say that some people may refrain from telling the truth.” Another researcher, Professor Tong Yuying, said workers who were abused might not be able to leave the house during holidays. According to the centre’s findings, 5.9 per cent of the workers said they did not get at least one day off per week – a violation of the standard employment contract. More than 20 per cent said they did not get all 12 days of statutory holidays. The survey found that the average pay for live-in helpers was HK$4,277 (US$545) per month in 2017. By law, the minimum wage for foreign domestic workers that year was HK$4,310. The current level is HK$4,410. About 8 per cent of the interviewees said they were underpaid, while 6 per cent told researchers they were given more than the minimum wage. Only 43 per cent of live-in helpers had their own room. Tong highlighted that a quarter of the helpers said they were university educated, which she said was unusual. Singapore’s domestic workers vulnerable to forced labour: report “Being a domestic helper is low-skilled work. People with primary education are usually sufficient to take the task,” she said. Tong added that the generally low wages in the Philippines may have motivated more highly educated workers to look for jobs in Hong Kong for better pay. The researchers urged the government to better protect helpers’ labour rights and ensure they got the number of holidays they were entitled to. Eman Villanueva, a spokesman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said the long working hours could lead to poor health. Villanueva said more than 120 migrant workers died in Hong Kong in 2016 – most from stress-related illnesses such as hypertension. The poor living conditions many faced were a major contributing factor, with some workers forced to sleep in bathrooms or kitchens, he said. “They do not have privacy, and most female workers would feel uncomfortable with this,” Villanueva said. He urged the government to clearly define in its standard contract what type of accommodation employers must provide.