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Hong Kong Domestic Workers’ Salary is the Highest It’s Ever Been

But domestic workers in Hong Kong are facing challenges in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The average monthly salary of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Hong Kong exceeded HK$5,000 for the first time ever in 2020.

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According to a study by employment matching service HelperChoice, which analyzed data of more than 10,000 job ads posted on its platform, FDWs in the Chinese territory earned an average of HK$5,012 (about P31,500) monthly this year. That’s an increase of 1.35 percent compared to 2019 and a 14 percent surge versus salary levels in 2016, when HelperChoice first published its findings.

The platform notes, however, that the increase rate is slower this year compared to previous years. (It was at 3.05 percent between 2018 and 2019).

Wealthier area, higher salary

Photo by HelperChoice.
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Some interesting trends emerged out of the study. Employment location, for instance, played a significant role in how much the domestic workers earned. Families living in wealthier areas or neighborhoods were able to offer higher pay for their domestic staff—from HK$5,257 (P33,000) to as much as HK$10,000 (P63,000) in some cases, in areas such as Wanchai, Southern, North, Central and Western, and Sai Kung.

At the other end of the spectrum, employers living in areas like Kwun Tong, Sha Tin, Shan Shui Po, Wong Tai Sin, and Kwai Tsing offered an average of $4,726, or only $96 more than Hong Kong’s Minimum Allowable Salary (MAW) of HK$4,630.

Photo by HelperChoice.
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Hong Kong has nearly 400,000 foreign domestic workers, about 70 percent of whom are from the Philippines. According to a report entitled “The Value of Care: Key Contributions of Migrant Domestic Workers to Economic Growth and Family Well-being in Asia,” FDWs in Hong Kong contributed an estimated $12.6 billion to the city’s economy, or 3.6 percent of local GDP.

Various studies indicate that employers favor hiring FDWs from the Philippines because of their English proficiency relative to those from other countries in Southeas Asia.

In addition, while 75 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer to have their private room, about 20 percent said they would like to live outside of their employers’ home. However, Hong Kong government rules make it mandatory for domestic helpers to live with their employers.

Photo by HelperChoice.
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Other findings: 66 percent of job offers on the HelperChoice platform included a private room; 22 percent offered a room shared with a child; nine percent, a room shared with another domestic worker; and three percent, a room shared with an adult. Domestic helpers cannot sleep in the same room as another adult of the opposite sex, according to government rules. 

Challenges faced by domestic workers in Hong Kong

Despite the uptick in pay, it’s still not enough to match the expected salary of FDWs, which is at $5,259, according to the HelperChoice study. Also, the Hong Kong government decided not to raise the MAW for FDWs this year. 

Photo by HelperChoice.
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The coronavirus pandemic has also impacted the livelihood of FDWs. Over 345,000 OFWs have lost their jobs worldwide, according to data from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. In Hong Kong, HelperChoice said it recorded a six percent increase of domestic helpers looking for a job due to the termination of a previous contract, mostly due to their employers’ relocation. 

Photo by HelperChoice.
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Other workplace challenges raised by FDWs: an increase in the workload (31 percent) and longer working hours (25 percent). Unfortunately, due to the difficult social and economic situation, 21 percent of the domestic workers surveyed also mention being in constant fear of termination of their contract, affecting their mental well-being.

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“This situation is increasing the dependence of Filipino families to foreign domestic workers still employed, or already abroad and looking for a new job,” said Mahee Leclerc, Managing Director of HelperChoice. “It is even more important to help foreign domestic workers who are currently in Hong Kong finishing their contracts or the ones who have seen their contracts being terminated (mostly due to financial reasons or relocations of their employer) to find another position before they have to go back to the Philippines unemployed.”

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About The Author
Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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