HelperChoice reveals the areas in Hong Kong where foreign domestic workers are paid the most
As the Hong Kong Labour Department is expected to announce the foreign domestic workers minimum wage reevaluation by the end of the month, HelperChoice, an ethical online platform connecting domestic workers and employers, analysed the data of more than 2,000 job ads posted on its platform from 1 October 2017 to 31 July 2018.
The study reveals a very encouraging trend: for the second consecutive year, the average salary offered by employers located in Hong Kong increased faster than the legal minimum wage. While the minimum wage was increased by 2.3% in October 2017 to HK$4,410, the HK$4,799 average salary is HK$254 or 5.5% above the results of the previous survey in 2017. In the meantime, the consumer price index increased by 2.5%. This means that the domestic helpers have more to save, to send to their families back home, or to improve their daily life in Hong Kong. For example, by saving HK$1,000 per month during 4 years, they can finance their children’s education: HK$250 per month can make a difference.
However, this global positive trend hides significant disparities between the different Hong Kong districts. While some employers in Happy Valley and Sai Ying Pun offer up to HK$8,500, most of the employers in Kwun Tong don’t offer more than the HK$4,410 minimum wage. These results correlate with the results of HelperChoice’s previous survey, showing that the helpers tend to earn more in affluent areas of Hong Kong, such as Central & Western, and the southern district.
Unsurprisingly, domestic helpers’ salaries are higher in areas favoured by wealthy families and international residents. The top 5 Hong Kong districts with the highest wages are: the Southern side, Central & Western districts, the Islands, Sai Kung and Wan Chai. The overall average salary for these five districts is HK$4,881, which is HK$471 above the current foreign domestic worker’s minimum wage. In the Central sub-district, the average salary reaches HK$5,595 (HK$1,185 more than the minimum wage). This is of course balanced by a high level of skills and experience required of the domestic helpers working with these families.
On the other hand, HelperChoice also investigated the five districts with the lowest average salaries for domestic helpers. Although last year Siu Sai Wan offered the lowest average salary, this year the areas that pay the least are Yuen Long, the Northern district, Wong Tai Sin, Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong, which collectively show an average wage of HK$4,562, that is to say only HK$152 above the minimum salary.
As in Hong Kong it is mandatory for domestic helpers to live with their employers, the domestic helper salary doesn’t include the cost of accommodation (nor food allowance or medical expenses) which is borne by the employer. Considering the housing costs in Hong Kong, this of course has a huge impact on a domestic helper’s budget and the money they can save or send back home. However, the comfort of the living arrangements also plays a significant part of a domestic worker’s living conditions.
As employers can specify the type of accommodation they offer to their domestic workers, HelperChoice also investigated which are the most common living arrangements. The survey reveals that a large majority (70%) of the job offers include a private room, 16% a room shared with a kid, and 10% a room shared with another domestic worker.
While in most areas private rooms are common for domestic workers, Hong Kong remains a city where real estate often means high prices and small spaces. Therefore, 26% of shared living arrangements is not a surprising figure, and among all the districts, only Wong Tai Sin and Kwai Tsing are offering a majority of shared accommodations.