Two groups representing the interests of Hong Kong’s foreign domestic workers met with Labour Department authorities and demanded a minimum pay increase of 27% and for the food allowance to be tripled.

During the meeting on Wednesday, the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body and the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions requested for a revised monthly basic pay of HK$HK$6,016 and HK$6,228 respectively, due to rising inflation.

Both groups also asked for an increase in helpers’ food allowances, with the body and union suggesting a new monthly rate of HK$3,065 and HK$2,552 respectively. This amount is paid to helpers by employers who opt not to pay for their food.

A group of foreign domestic helpers sit on flattened cardboard boxes at a covered pedestrian walkway in Hong Kong. They are relaxed and not wearing their shoes. Some of them are eating, while others scroll through their mobile phones.
Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong on their day off (© Max Falkowitz via Flickr)

The demands come ahead of the government’s annual review of helper salaries. In September 2022, the Labour Department increased the Minimum Allowable Wage for helpers by 2.2% — from $4,630 to $4,730 per month.

Additionally, the food allowance was raised by HK$23 from “not less than HK$1,173 to not less than HK$1,196 per month”.

These increases were seen as insufficient, especially since authorities froze helper salaries in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to government statistics from 2022, there are currently roughly 340,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, most of them from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Recently, the Indonesian government announced that Hong Kong residents who wish to employ Indonesian domestic helpers will have to pay the full recruitment costs to agencies — which can total up to HK$20,000. Previously, helpers had to pay a placement fee, but now they only need to shoulder the costs of training.

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This Zero Placement Fee was first revealed by Indonesian authorities in 2020 and covers airfare, visas, passport replacement, accommodation, medical expenses, and transportation costs.

Header image credits: Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body via Facebook

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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