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Foreign domestic workers in HK call for $5,500 minimum wage

06 August 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

The speakers show what they hope to bring
 to tomorrow's meeting with HK labor officials
Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are calling for their minimum monthly salary to be raised to $5,500, and their food allowance to no less than $2,500 a month.

The call was issued earlier today, Aug 6, a day before the biggest support organizations for migrant workers were due to meet with Hong Kong labour officials for the yearly consultation on the “minimum allowable wage” (MAW) for foreign domestic helpers.

The migrant workers, along with three of the biggest organizations fighting for their rights and welfare, announced their position at a media briefing called to unveil the findings of a survey that shows where their monthly earnings go.

The joint study by the Mission for Migrant Workers and the Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants showed that three-fifths (3/5) of FDWs’ salaries, or $2,700 goes to paying for goods and services in Hong Kong, leaving only about $1,700 for savings and family remittance.

Given these figures, the Mission said: “It is estimated that they (migrant workers) infuse over $562 million per month or over $6.75 billion per year towards the Hong Kong economy through purchases alone.”

Despite their huge contribution to the local economy, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) said in a statement that wages given to FDWs leave them unable to cope with the steady rise in the cost of goods, utilities and services in Hong Kong.

Using the government’s own estimates of the cost of living in Hong Kong, and even granting that FDWs have to live with their employers, AMCB said they should be getting $5,585 for working 10 hours a day on average.

The demand for a $2,500 monthly food allowance is also said to be based on government statistics on the per capita expenditure on food by Hong Kong residents.

According to the group, the current minimum wage of $4,410 is “a measly 44%” of what is needed for a person to survive in Hong Kong. The current monthly food allowance of $1,053 is said to be 59% lower than what is considered sufficient in the city.

AMCB spokesperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said that her group intends to bring to tomorrow’s meeting a reiteration of their call to be paid the same wages as local workers, and for the government to use a more transparent scheme for computing the MAW.

Indonesian migrant leader Sringatin, also of AMCB, said they also want to call on both Hong Kong and the sending countries to work jointly on promoting the rights and welfare of FDWs, and acknowledge their great contribution to their respective economies.

The Mission’s Cynthia Tellez said that her group would push for a more realistic MAW based on a more transparent mechanism - and “better yet”, align it with the statutory minimum wage for other workers in Hong Kong.

She also wants the Hong Kong government to actively address the recurring issues of illegal recruitment and illegal agency fees, and to enact an anti-human trafficking law based on the United Nations-Palermo protocol.

APMM’s Ramon Bultron backed the other groups’ calls, but put emphasis on ensuring that the rights and welfare of FDWs are protected, and reiterated the need for Hong Kong to pass a law against human trafficking.

He also called on the media and other groups to continue working with organizations that support and promote the rights of migrants.

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