Hong Kong’s domestic helper groups push for 25 per cent pay rise as soaring loan charges and fees bite
Rocketing charges from recruitment agencies bringing foreign domestic helpers to Hong Kong mean the workers are spending over a third of their monthly wages to pay back loans and fees, more than double the amount five years ago, a survey shows.
And coupled with the higher cost of living in the city,
this means helpers had less for remittances and savings than before – an average of HK$1,700 (US$218) a month in 2017, or 32 per cent of their income, down from 54 per cent five years ago.
The figures from concern groups Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) were compiled after interviews with more than 1,000 Filipino domestic helpers last year.
The study was a follow-up to one five years ago.
The findings prompted migrant workers’ groups to seek a meeting with the Labour Department on Tuesday, at which they planned to propose a 24.7 per cent pay rise, bringing helpers’ minimum monthly wage to HK$5,500 from HK$4,410, according to MFMW general manager Cynthia Abdon-Tellez.
“Yes, foreign domestic helpers come to Hong Kong to support their families, but they end up spending most of their wages in Hong Kong, and thus contribute to the economic life of the city,” she said.
Expenses, related loans and agency fees accounted for 36 per cent of helpers’ wages in 2017, compared with 13 per cent in 2013, the groups said. Another 23 per cent went to general living costs including food, clothes and accessories, communications, transport, toiletries and donations, compared with 28.5 per cent five years ago.