Lawmaker backs 25% pay hike for HK Filipino domestic workers

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Manila—A party-list lawmaker on Monday (June 4) joined the clamor for Hong Kong to increase by 25 percent the statutory minimum wage of Filipino domestic workers in the face of increasing demand for Filipino household staff in mainland China.

ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III said there was a “pent-up demand” for Filipino domestic workers in the mainland and higher pay could lure them there. Beijing and Manila are holding talks for the legal deployment of Filipino domestic helpers in the mainland.

“If Hong Kong wants to stay competitive and keep on attracting dependable and educated Filipino household staff, it has to bump up at a faster rate their minimum pay,” Bertiz said in a statement.

“There is pent-up demand for Filipino household staff in mainland China, primarily from the growing number of wealthy Chinese families with a second child and from the expatriates there,” he added.

He said affluent families in mainland China wanted their children to learn English at an early age to prepare them for future higher education in America, Britain, Australia and elsewhere.

“This is why they are willing to offer higher pay for English-speaking Filipino staff to help around the house,” Bertiz said.

The HK Labor Department periodically reviews the minimum wage and other benefits for foreign domestic workers, and is expected to announce improvements in September.

Advocates for domestic workers’ rights in Hong Kong are pushing for a HK$5,500 monthly minimum wage, which is 25 percent higher than the current floor pay.

At present, foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are entitled to a “minimum allowable wage” of HK$4,410 per month, plus a food allowance of at least HK$1,053 per month if they are not provided free meals by the employer.

As of April, foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong included 205,837 Filipinos, 162,742 Indonesians, 4,279 Indians, and 4,836 from other nationalities, according to the HK Immigration Department.

Bertiz said Hong Kong might lose its Filipino domestic workers due to the “superior pay in the mainland,” ranging from the equivalent of HK$8,600 to HK$15,500.

Even without the mainland demand factor, Hong Kong would still need an additional 240,000 foreign domestic workers in the years ahead, partly to help look after its growing number of seniors, Bertiz said, citing the HK Labor and Welfare Bureau.

He said the number of Hong Kong residents aged 65 or older is projected to double from 1.16 million in 2016 to 2.37 million by 2036.

Filipino workers in Hong Kong, including professionals, sent home US$735.2 million in 2017, based on data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Bertiz said.

They sent home another US$188.7 million from January to March this year, he said.

The amounts do not include money transferred via non-bank channels, such as through other Filipino workers who come home for vacations, Bertiz added.

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