- The looser travel restrictions for the domestic helper is not enough to cover the high demand of local families; given the current difficulty and cost to hire overseas helpers, local helpers are constantly in shortage
- Despite frozen minimum wage, 9.60% annual average increase in domestic helper monthly salary, so employers need to offer a higher salary to easier find a helper
- Domestic helpers working conditions need concern, especially under pandemic
HONG KONG SAR - Media OutReach - 9 December 2021 - For the 3rd consecutive year, HelperPlace has been surveying the average monthly salary of foreign domestic helpers working in Hong Kong. This year, HelperPlace conducted an online survey among domestic helpers in Hong Kong from January 2021 to December 2021 and received over 12,501 responses. One of the objectives is to measure the impact of the pandemic on the job market. The results provide insights into the actual average salary, factors affecting salary, expectations, and working conditions of helpers in 2021.
The Significant Impact of the Increase in Salary in 2021
HelperPlace's annual salary survey has been conducted three years in a row. In 2021, the average actual monthly salary for a foreign domestic helper is HK$5,288. The average monthly salary for 2019 and 2020 are $4,765 and $4,825, respectively. It reveals a significant annual increase of 9.60% from 2020 to 2021 compared to only 1.26% from 2019 to 2020. Since 2019 September, the minimum monthly salary has been frozen at HK$4,630 by the government.
In the context of the travel restrictions, the shortage of overseas helpers has brought up the market salary. Even though the government has loosened up the restrictions, the population of overseas workers has decreased by over 20,000 in less than a year. The struggle to book quarantine rooms for helpers due to its limited number, the long process, and the extra cost of HK$15,000 (fees for quarantine hotel and food) to hire an overseas helper push employers to find other solutions. As a result, employers have a preference for hiring foreign domestic helpers who are already settled in Hong Kong. Therefore this phenomenon creates a large demand for a limited pool of workers. The results show that the impact of the COVID on domestic helper salary has been fully reflected in 2021.
Territorial Difference of Salary
The survey shows the territorial difference in average salary among domestic helpers. The Hong Kong Island has the highest average salary with HK$5,612, followed by Kowloon of HK$5,148, and the least in New Territories with HK$5,093.
Factors of Domestic Helper Salary
Besides salary, the survey also conducted interviews on the working hours, no. of kid, and the years of helpers' experience. The average salary increases with the number of years of experience of helpers. However, the results show a shocking negative relationship between workload in relation to salary. The higher the working hour and the number of kids in the employer's family, the lower the salary. It reflects that domestic helper salary is not reflecting their workload.
Based on the survey, the hiring channel is one of the important factors for salary. The average salary ranks lowest for the agency ($4,683), then online platform ($5,393), and highest for employer referral with $5,418. This can be explained by the fact that direct hiring through online platforms and employer referral can save a considerable amount of agency fees, create more trust, and result in higher monthly salaries.
The working hour and working conditions still need improvement
The survey also reflects on the long working hours issue and poor working conditions of some domestic helpers in Hong Kong. For instance, nearly 61% of respondents work over 12 hours a day.
According to Hong Kong law, employers are obligated to provide food allowance or free food to domestic helpers. 81% of the survey respondents said their employers provide free food, and 12% out of them said that they do not have enough food provided by employers.
For the living conditions, most respondents either have their separate room (56%) or share a room with kids (20%), elderlies (2%), or other workers (10%). However, around 11% of respondents stay in the living room, bathroom, or kitchen of the employer's house. About 1% of respondents are live-out, although the law forbids it.
Despite the poor working and living conditions for some domestic helpers, over 70% of respondents find the relationship with the employer at least acceptable or better.
Forecast for next year
There is no doubt that the travel restriction will persist for a few more months. This may result in a more severe shortage of local helpers, assuming the same domestic helper quotas for entering Hong Kong. In the last 3 months, it was not rare to see workers asking for more than HK$7,000 per month.
Despite the higher bargaining power for a better salary, the local helpers who have finished their 2-year contracts are also looking for better working conditions, such as separate rooms, lower workloads, and locations in Hong Kong Island to conveniently hang out with friends on weekends. It is undeniable that employers who have better offers can attract domestic helpers to start or continue working for them. It will create more difficulties for the middle class and lower-income families.
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