Most of the foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are from the Philippines or Indonesia. They are persevering and dependable women who are working abroad to support their families in their home country. The costs of hiring these migrant workers are generally lower than that of professional childcare and elderly nursing services, but how much does it cost to have a domestic worker at home?
When you hire a domestic helper, you have the choice between a foreign domestic worker and a local worker. If you need only a helper part-time, you can opt for hiring a local worker and pay her for her services hourly (between $65 and $120 per hour). If you are looking for somebody full-time, you will need a foreign domestic worker who will be living with you at your home (compulsory since 2003).
As an employer, you can either hire a domestic worker yourself or through an employment agency. Direct hiring is cheaper than using an employment agency, because both you and your helper do not not need to pay placement fees, which range between HK$2,500 and HK$10,000. However, it also means that you need to find your domestic helper yourself. Facebook groups or online platforms like HelperChoice can be very helpful in this case.
Costs to Process a Visa
After you have found a helper, you need to pay for a visa and the processing of paperwork. Depending on your domestic worker’s current situation and nationality, you can apply for the visa yourself at the Immigration Department (this works only if your helper is a Filipino and has just finished her 2-year contract in Hong Kong), or you need to appoint an employment agency.
There are various costs and timeframes involved when you hire a helper, depending on her employment history. We can identify three main cases:
- If the helper has just completed her two-year contract (finished contract) or has been terminated because of relocation, financial reasons or death, the approximate fees are HK$1,800-$3,000 and you need to wait 4-6 weeks if you do this through an agency. It will cost less than HK$800 and take 2-4 weeks if you do this without an agency.
- If her previous employer has dismissed the helper or the helper has quit before the end of the two-year contract, the helper will have to leave Hong Kong before starting a new contract. The approximate fees are HK$3,500-$9,000 and you need to wait 8-12 weeks.
- If your helper is not currently in Hong Kong and has either never worked abroad or has worked in countries other than Hong Kong, the approximate fees are HK$$4,000-$10,000 and you need to wait 10-12 weeks.
Keep in mind that when you ask an employment agency to assist only with the visa and paperwork processing, the cost is much cheaper and ranges between HK$2,000 and HK$3,000 for a helper with a finished contract, and for all other situations the cost will be between HK$4,000 and HK$7,500.
Recurring Costs: Minimum Allowable Wage, Food Allowance and Insurance
The Hong Kong government set a legal minimum wage that all employers must pay, which is HK$4,410 as of October 2017. On top of that, each employer is legally required either to provide their helper with free sufficient food or with a food allowance every month, which is HK$1,053 as of October 2017.
This is the minimum, but you can consider providing your helper with a higher salary: many employers pay $5,000 or more, depending on the years of duty and the level of experience, plus a Christmas and/or Chinese New Year bonus.
The Labour Department also requires the employer to take out Employee Compensation Insurance. This insurance is very affordable and there are quite a few companies offering it, which starts at HK$350. The most basic helper insurance will only cover your domestic worker in case she is injured during her work. The employer is responsible for all medical costs of their helper so a more comprehensive insurance plan can save you money and worries.
Also, note that all work-related transport, such as the daily trip to the market, must be reimbursed.
Occasional Costs: Training, Travel Costs and Annual Leave
All first-time helpers need to have training in the Philippines or Indonesia, but you may want to upskill your domestic worker on special topics and enroll her in first-aid training, cooking classes or training related to financial or household management, for instance. The prices start from HK$600 and you can find some of the courses available on training websites.
Employers also have to cover all of the travel costs of their helpers when they come to Hong Kong, and once a year for their annual leave, including the transportation fees between the airport and their house. Luckily, flight tickets tend to be rather affordable, especially if you look for discounted helper tickets.
It is also advisable that you ask your new domestic worker to undergo a medical check-up when she starts working for you (compulsory if she comes from abroad). These medical checks costs around HK$850.
As a conclusion, there are different costs that you need to identify, so it’s important to budget ahead of time. Check whether you are able to afford a domestic worker before hiring one and signing the employment contract and keep in mind that you may always have unplanned costs (costs when bringing you helper on holidays with you, illness, etc.).
Julie Delignon is Country Manager at HelperChoice and helps employers and domestic workers find each other. She joined HelperChoice adventure because she was interested in working in the social economy to have a social impact while reconciling business requirements.