Date
17 November 2018
Groups representing foreign domestic helpers stage a demonstration on Tuesday, demanding an increase in the minimum monthly salary for the maids. Photos: Reuters, Now News video
Groups representing foreign domestic helpers stage a demonstration on Tuesday, demanding an increase in the minimum monthly salary for the maids. Photos: Reuters, Now News video

Foreign maids groups seek 25% pay revision; employers object

Organizations representing foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong have sought a nearly 25 percent hike in the minimum monthly wage for the maids, but the demand looks unlikely to be met as employer groups are strongly opposed to any upward revision in the salaries. 

The government reviews every year the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) for foreign maids, whose number is estimated be about 370,000 in the city, and usually makes a decision in September or October that year.

On Tuesday, the Labour Department met with representatives from domestic helpers’ unions and employers’ organizations to listen to their opinions on the issue.

Leo Tang, organizing secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions, said after the meeting that it proposed a 24.7 percent increase in MAW, to HK$5,500 per month from the current HK$4,410. 

The group also wanted the food allowance provided by employers, in the case where employers do not offer meals, to be increased to HK$2,500  a month from HK$1,053.

Tang pointed out a foreign domestic helper normally has to work eight to 16 hours each day, meaning their hourly wage is only between HK$9.2 and HK$18.3, hk01.com reports.

As for the food allowance, Tang said the current amount is too low for the workers to cope with the general level of food spending in Hong Kong.

Employers should be fine with the proposed increase because past data show their median monthly household income has gone up, Tang added.

However, Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, chairperson of the Hong Kong Employers of Domestic Helpers Association, disagreed, saying employers have already assumed the burden of paying for maids’ various expenditures, and they are in fact the group that has been most affected by the rising cost of living seen in recent years.

Ma suggested a pay rise for foreign maids, if it must be done, should not exceed 2 percent. Also, there should be no further discussion for at least two years before a review is made, she argued.

Joan Tsui Hiu-tung, convenor of the Support Group of Hong Kong Employers with Foreign Domestic Helpers –  another organization representing the interests of employers — said more than seven in 10 of the 3,800 employers it surveyed had wanted a pay freeze, while 22 percent favored a pay cut.

According to Tsui, the survey found that employers are spending HK$9,000 each month on their maids on average, including the money spent for the domestic helpers’ meals and other living expenses, and also taking account the amount paid to intermediary agencies.

A pay hike is not justified, Tsui cited the survey as showing, with employers complaining about rising agency fees as well as unsatisfactory work performance of the maids.

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TL/JC/RC

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