MDWs Denied from Hong Kong’s Consumption Vouchers; Activists Call on For Wage Increase Among Others

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Central Hong Kong - 01 May, 2020 : Public transport on Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong at Day.

Hong Kong domestic worker activists call on the government to raise Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) wages, to regulate their unlimited working hours, and provide proper accommodation since they were once again denied by the government to receive the next e-vouchers to be given in August 2022.

On June 16, the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB), a member of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), submitted their letter in front of the Central Government Office stating their demands for better working and living conditions for MDWs.

According to AMCB, over 339,000 MDWs contribute to the city’s economy. Not only do they do backbreaking jobs, they too also use their own wages to purchase food, clothing, personal hygiene, transportation, communication, and miscellaneous goods that they send to their families. Their spending power also contributes to the local economy.

On June 13, Finance Secretary Paul Chan announced only residents eligible to become permanent residents will receive the e-vouchers worth HK$5,000 while MDWs are among those unable to receive it.

The e-vouchers are meant to stimulate the local economy. About 300,000 recipients, many of them talented, entrepreneurs and students, will benefit from the scheme.

Sring Sringatin of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union wrote in a Facebook post on June 15 and accused the government to degrade and discredit the value of MDWs since they cannot attain permanent residency.

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“The Hong Kong government does not seem to care and also does not provide a solution to overcome the burden borne by the MDWs. During this time of COVID, MDWs are overworked with many very long but unregulated work hours. Many were barred from having their day of rest,” Sringatin says.

Prior to Covid-19, MDWs already worked long hours but their working and living conditions worsened at the height of the pandemic when work-from-home meant extra work since their employers and their children were at home. Their rest time was shortened or they were denied to leave their homes or risk getting fired.

Aside from being denied from the government’s second batch of e-vouchers, MDWs were also stigmatized and kicked out of their employers’ homes or received little help once suspected of being Covid-19 positive.

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AMCB says that the minimum wage of MDWs in Hong Kong must be no less than HK$6,014 based on their computation and studies of a standard living wage.

Currently, MDWs’ allowable wage is HK$4,630, which translates to HK$31.15 per hour.

Hong Kong’s strict social distancing rules and quarantines to be followed upon arrival, there is a record number of people leaving the city.

In a zoom interview, Jean Agraan lived in Hong Kong for eight years. She left the city in May 2022 and found a job as a nursing assistant in Finland. She had graduated from a caregiver academy where she gained the necessary skills to land her job today.

“I searched on Google to find out more about Finland. It is really a peaceful and happy country,” she says. “When I arrived, I noticed that everyone is equal here. There is no one acting like they are above you. I’m thankful.”