Migrant workers press HK gov't for $4,500 basic pay
HONG KONG – Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are calling on the government to raise their minimum wage to $4,500 a month, up $390 from current levels.
"A basic wage of $4,500 for foreign domestic workers can no longer be deferred, especially as we had asked for this a year ago," said Dolores Balladares, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body.
Balladares led a group of mostly Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers on a march to the Labour Department offices in Sheung Wan on Aug 7 to push their campaign.
The marchers also demanded that the food allowance for domestic workers who are not provided free meals by their employers, be raised to $1,600 from the present $964 per month.
The AMCB submitted a petition to the Labour Department hoping it would be included in the government's ongoing review of the minimum allowable wage (MAW) for foreign helpers and their food allowance.
Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, which currently number more than 300,000, receive a monthly pay of $4,110, compared with S$450 ($2,520) for their counterparts in Singapore and 1,500 riyal ($2,000) in Saudi Arabia.
Balladares said the AMCB is firming up plans to campaign strongly for this wage demand, which has been raised for the past several years by her group. Last year, the MAW was raised by a mere $90.
"This year's campaign reboot will focus on the rising cost of living in the territory and its growing discrepancy with FDW wages, and will mobilize its entire grassroots member-organizations to put pressure on the government," Balladares said.
Sringatin, the AMCB's Indonesian spokesperson, argued that the original basis for the $4,500 basic wage remains valid this year and, in fact "even more so".
"In asking for the increase last year, we declared that the $4,500 would represent only a $240 raise over the 15-year period from 1998, when the FDW monthly wage was at $3,680," Sringatin said.
"The $90 increase last was practically an insult to the sector, as it only amounted to an additional $3 per day. Needless to say, this is woefully inadequate,"said Sringatin.
She said the $964 food allowance, raised by just $20 over the previous year, is also deplorable.
"This breaks down to just $32 per day, and it doesn't take a three-digit IQ to figure out that this only buys you one simple meal in Hong Kong. It is statistically impossible for any helper to get decently fed with this amount on a daily basis," Sringatin said.
Balladares said the discrimination against foreign helpers is seen by their much lower wages compared with those paid to local workers, despite their longer working hours.
"Migrant helpers work an average of 16 hours a day compared with 10 hours for local workers, yet they only get roughly half the wage of the locals,"she said.
Sringatin believes that Hong Kong is losing its competitiveness in attracting domestic worker because it hesitates to grant a wage increase.
"There is a rising exodus of experienced FDWs from Hong Kong to Canada and Russia, and this may be attributed to a large part to more attractive wage and benefit packages available in these countries," Sringatin said. - Rappler.com
This story was republished with permission from The Sun-HK, a content partner of Rappler