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Is Hong Kong the best destination for foreign domestic workers?

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

Salaries of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) has once again become a contentious issue in Hong Kong after the Government announced that the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) for FDWs will be raised from HK$4,520 to HK$4,630 per month.[1] However, the migrant workers seem not to be satisfied with the increase, slamming the 2.4 percent increase as an “insult”.[2] In order to better understand the situation of these workers in Hong Kong, a comparison of average salaries for FDWs in different countries will be discussed in this blog post.

In China, a legal Filipino domestic worker earns an average of HK$11,000 per month, nearly three times the MAW in Hong Kong.[3] “Many FDWs originally working in Hong Kong indeed stayed in China with overstayed tourist visas because of the higher salaries”, an officer in CC Shanghai Ayi Agency, one of the city’s biggest housekeeping companies said.[4] Interestingly, the minimum monthly wage in Shanghai is only HK$2,700, far below that of a legal Filipino worker.[5] This thus illustrates how Filipino workers are favoured by the Chinese for their English proficiency.

While in Japan, professional domestic workers, who are required to undergo a two-month training in the Philippines, can earn around HK$6,000 to HK$8,500 per month and will not be required to stay with their employers.[6] What’s more, workers will only be required to work 8 hours a day and are entitled to overtime pay.[7]

At the other extreme is Singapore which has one of the largest populations of FDWs in Asia, with 255,800 workers as of June 2019. According to HelperChoice, a platform that connects employers with domestic workers, the average monthly salary for FDWs is around HK$3,400, lower than the MAW in Hong Kong.[8] A survey conducted by global market research firm YouGov even reveals that 48% of the Singaporeans polled online think these workers should be paid less than the average pay[9], showing how these workers are undervalued in Singapore.

All in all, Hong Kong is still better compared to the worst countries like Singapore and Malaysia. But when comparing Hong Kong with other countries, it is clear that the new minimum wage for FDWs in Hong Kong is nowhere near the amount received by a worker in other regions of the world, reflecting the view that the pay rise is degrading and demeaning the real contribution of the 380,000 FDWs have on the Hong Kong economy.

  1. Labour Department, ‘Minimum Allowable Wage and food allowance for foreign domestic helpers to increase’ (Labour Department, Government of Hong Kong SAR, 27 September 2019) <> accessed 25 November 2019

  2. RTHK, ‘HK$110 increase in maids’ wages deemed ‘insulting’ (RTHK, 27 September 2019) <> accessed 25 November 2019

  3. Li Qian, ‘Ambitious parents fuel demand for English-speaking nannies’ (Shanghai Daily, 8 January 2019) <> accessed 25 November 2019

  4. Ibid.

  5. Li Danqing, ‘Shanghai tops national minimum wage standards’ (China Daily, 21 August 2019) <> accessed 25 November 2019

  6. The Filipino Times, ‘Japan hiring professional housekeepers, offers attractive monthly salaries’ (The Filipino Times, 22 May 2018) <> accessed 25 November 2019

  7. Ibid.

  8. Aqil Haziq Mahmud, ‘How much should maids be paid? Half of Singaporeans say less than S$600 a month, new survey shows’ (Channel News Asia, 9 November 2019) <> accessed 25 November 2019

  9. Ibid.

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