What action has been taken by the government?
In September, the Government announced that they were increasing the minimum wage for foreign domestic workers (FDW’s) by 2.4%, from $4,520 to $4,630 per month, as well as increasing the food allowance in lieu of free food by 4.3% from $1,075 to $1,121 per month. According to the government, this increase takes into account Hong Kong’s economic outlook, as well as affordability for employers.
Is this wage increase doing enough?
Migrant worker groups have not been happy with the size of the increase, with the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB) saying that the pay continues to ‘degrade and discredit’ the real value that FDW’s actually have on the economy of Hong Kong. The 2.4% increase does not even cover the rate of inflation and can be seen as the government choosing to neglect improving the living conditions of these migrant workers. The AMCB has also said that this new wage shows that the government is continuing to treat their migrant workers as slaves. It is clear that FDW’s themselves do not see this pay increase as a fair reflection of the work that they do, and find such a slight increase to be insulting.
Hong Kong Minimum Wage:
As of 1 May 2019, the statutory minimum wage in Hong Kong is at $37.5 per hour. Over 70% of FDW’s in Hong Kong work more than 13 hours per day. If FDW’s in Hong Kong were paid the statutory minimum, then working 24 days per month with 1 rest day per week, and for 13 hours each day at $37.5 per hour, means they should be earning $11,700 per month. The new minimum wage set by the government for FDW’s is nowhere near this amount and seems to reflect the view that FDW’s are not seen as equals in Hong Kong.
It is going to be extremely hard for FDW’s to be able to improve their living conditions and achieve a higher standard of living if the government is not willing to increase their wages to cover at least Hong Kong inflation. The government’s decision on the pay increase can also be seen as fuelling inequality, because it is showing that FDW’s are not paid in the same way as other professionals in Hong Kong, and is going to be damaging to the public perception of the rights that FDW’s should have.
Labour Department ‘Minimum Allowable Wage and food allowance for foreign domestic helpers to increase’ (Labour Department, Government of Hong Kong SAR, 27 September 2019) <https://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/news/press20190927.htm> accessed 12 November 2019
Danny Mok ‘Hong Kong’s domestic helpers set to get a 2.4 per cent pay rise’ (SCMP 28 September 2019) <https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/hong-kong-economy/article/3030737/hong-kongs-domestic-helpers-set-get-24-cent-pay> accessed 12 November 2019
Labour Department ‘Statutory minimum wage’ (Labour Department, Government of Hong Kong SAR, 2019) <https://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/news/mwo.htm> accessed 12 November 2019
Sun Lok-Kei ‘More than 70 per cent of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong work over 13 hours a day, Chinese University survey shows’ (SCMP, 13 February 2019) < https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/2185976/more-70-cent-foreign-domestic-helpers-hong-kong-work-over-13> accessed 12 November 2019