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FDWs contribute US$12.6 billion to HK’s economy, study shows

07 March 2019


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Migrant domestic workers contributed HK$98 billion to Hong Kong's economy in 2018
A new study shows that foreign domestic workers contributed a staggering US$12.6 billion (HK$98.02billion) to Hong Kong’s economy in 2018, representing 3.6 of the city’s gross domestic product or GDP.

The breakthrough finding was contained in a report jointly released on Mar 6 by global information services company Experian and Hong Kong-based charity Enrich.
The report, The Value of Care: Key Contributions of Migrant Domestic Workers to Economic Growth and Family Well-being in Asia”, calculated comprehensively for the first time the economic contribution of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
The study, commissioned by Experian and conducted by international market research firm Frost & Sullivan, showed that migrant workers’ contribution was the biggest in Hong Kong. In Singapore, the migrants’ contribution to the economy was US$8.2 billion (or 2.4% of the GDP); and in Malaysia, US$0.9 billion (0.3% of the GDP).



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Lucinda Pike, executive director of Enrich said: “Domestic work is, in many ways, invisible and undervalued work that disproportionately falls on women, often migrants. We are thrilled that this research shows how the presence of domestic workers unlocks extra economic potential.”
The report said the migrants’ final contribution figure was calculated according to the real value that they add based on the cost of domestic work if paid at local rates, the value of their own personal spending in Hong Kong and value of freed-up time. For example, migrant workers enable dual incomes in each household by freeing more women to join the workforce.



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In Hong Kong, it was found out that only 49% of women (at the prime working age of 25-54) with children would be able to join the labour force if they did not employ a FDW. But if they do, this labour force participation increases to 78%. 
By enabling more women to join the labour force, migrant workers indirectly add US$2.6 billion (HK$20.1 billion) to Hong Kong’s economy, US$2.6 billion (SG$3.5 billion) to Singapore’s economy and US$0.23 billion (MYR929 million) to Malaysia.
This is on top of their contribution to family well-being.



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Despite their important contribution, the research also showed a significant lack of access for migrants to participate in Hong Kong’s vibrant economy. For example, only 18% of migrant workers were found to have bank accounts either because they lack funds or financial knowledge and awareness, and because of strict bank regulations.

Also noted was the alarmingly high level of debt among migrants in Hong Kong, with, 83% of them reporting being in debt.

In comparison, 51% of migrant domestic workers in Singapore and 86% of those in Malaysia have bank accounts. The number of those who are reported to be in debt is also lower in both places, at 34% and 65%, respectively.



Sisca Margaretta, chief marketing officer of Experian Asia Pacific, said it is important to equip migrants with financial information and access to help them move ahead in life.

“Building equal opportunities for inclusion across genders and socio-economic groups is key to developing thriving economies and communities in Asia Pacific. Only by arming all groups with financial knowledge and access will we be able to start addressing the financial difficulties they face and help resolve the region’s financial inclusion challenges,” Margaretta said.

In a statement, Enrich said that Hong Kong needs to make sure it remains an attractive city for migrants to work in by recognizing the economic value of the care and domestic work they provide.
This is particularly important with the rapidly ageing populations, lower fertility rates, and little or no affordable care services in countries across Asia and the Pacific, where over 21 million migrant domestic workers are now based.
“This demand is only set to grow in the future; in Hong Kong the government has projected a total need of 600,000 MDWs by 2047. As more doors open for migrant domestic workers across Asia, the future of care in Hong Kong depends on ensuring that it remains an attractive city to work in,” the  statement said.

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