More than One-Third of Domestic Worker Wages Go to Recruiters, Loans

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Domestic workers in Hong Kong are pushing for a 25% pay raise as recruitment fees continue to skyrocket.

In interviews with more than 1,000 Filipino domestic workers in the city, it was found that they were spending more than a third of their monthly salary to pay back recruitment fees and loans. Coupled with higher living costs in Hong Kong, their remittances have shrunk drastically.

The amount of money they have been able to save or send home has decreased by 54% compared to five years ago. Last year domestic workers were only able to save HK$1,700 (US$218) a month on average.

The South China Morning Post reports:

The figures from concern groups Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) were compiled after interviews with more than 1,000 Filipino domestic helpers last year. The study was a follow-up to one five years ago.

The findings prompted migrant workers’ groups to seek a meeting with the Labour Department on Tuesday, at which they planned to propose a 24.7 per cent pay rise, bringing helpers’ minimum monthly wage to HK$5,500 from HK$4,410, according to MFMW general manager Cynthia Abdon-Tellez.

Expenses, related loans and agency fees accounted for 36 per cent of helpers’ wages in 2017, compared with 13 per cent in 2013, the groups said. Another 23 per cent went to general living costs including food, clothes and accessories, communications, transport, toiletries and donations, compared with 28.5 per cent five years ago.

However, not everyone supports the pay raise.

Joan Tsui Hiu-tung, convenor of the Support Group for Hong Kong Employers with Foreign Domestic Helpers, said a 25% raise was out of the question and planned to argue at the Labor Department meeting that their wages should remain unchanged.

“An employer I spoke to was like, ‘I haven’t had a rise in salary for three years myself!” Tsui said.

“We are employees too, and we already have to pay for [helpers’] living and food expenses except for Sundays. Such an increase in salary is impossible for us.”

Tsui suggested that the Hong Kong government adopt stricter regulations on recruitment agencies instead of placing the burden on employers.

“Recruitment agents are the bridge between employers and maids. Under the messy regulations now, both sides have very little guarantee of service,” she said.

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