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Migrant workers group presses $6,014 monthly pay

23 September 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The protest was held ahead of the expected announcement of the new MAW for FDWs

The biggest umbrella organization of migrant domestic workers staged a token protest today, Sept. 23, at the Labour Department office in Sheung Wan to demand a “living wage” of $6,014 a month, and a food allowance of $2,600.

The protesters said the cost of living in Hong Kong has risen since the pandemic began in January last year, but migrant workers have been left out of government subsidies to various sectors.

The small-group protest was held in anticipation of the government’s announcement of the new minimum allowable wage for foreign domestic helpers before the end of the month.

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Last year, the government kept the minimum wage at $4,630 and the food allowance at $1,121 amid the economic slump due to the pandemic. 

AMCB spokesperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said during the short protest that the minimum salary of MDWs is no longer enough to provide them and their families with their basic needs, especially since the coronavirus spread has raised the cost of living.


Napapanahon po ang pagbibigay ng living wage, (ang) pagtaas ng ating sahod, at kakabit po niyan ang ating panawagan na pagbibigay ng food allowance na $2,600 sa lahat ng manggagawa na binibigyan ng food allowance,” Pelaez said. (It is high time that we are given a living wage, that our salary in increased, and along with that is our call that a food allowance of $2,600 be given to all who are getting this allowance).

Indonesian worker Sringatin, also an AMCB spokesperson, said migrant domestic helpers deserve the wage increase because they did not get one last year and were shut out of subsidies that the Hong Kong government gave most of its residents.

Pelaez said they are also appealing to the Hong Kong government to ensure that FDWs are given decent accommodation by identifying areas in the employer’s house where the worker should not be made to sleep.

The protesters observing social distancing outside the Labour office

In its petition, AMCB also reiterated a call for the regulation of their work hours, citing a 2020 study by the Mission for Migrant Workers that showed 98% of MDWs suffered from long working hours. The report showed that more than 70% worked 11-16 hours a day while nearly 30% worked more than 16 hours.


“We demand the HKSAR government to amend the Standard Employment Contract for Foreign Domestic Helpers to include resting hours. Specifically, we demand the HKSAR to implement a continuous 11-hour rest periods between two consecutive workdays plus meal breaks for migrant domestic workers,” the AMCB said.

Historically, the Labour Department gives MDWs a meager salary increase of just about $100 each year.


In an interview after the protest, Pelaez, who chairs the United Filipinos of Hong Kong, admitted many employers do not seem agreeable to a wage increase.

“But I think our demand for a $6,014 monthly salary is just reasonable, it’s not really too much. With the cost of living in Hong Kong in the present situation, I think it’s reasonable, the employers can afford to give it,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

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In its petition addressed to Labor Secretary Law Chi-kwong, the AMCB said the pandemic has provided many challenges to MDWs.

“The working and living conditions of MDWs have worsened with many workers facing longer working hours and lack of rest, lack of proper food and improper accommodation, lack of mask and sanitizer, and more,” the AMCB said.

To support its petition, AMCB said the helpers’ current salary of $4,630 translates to just $31.15 per hour, or just 56% of the $54.70 hourly rate for a living wage estimated by British charity, Oxfam.

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