Salaries for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong drop by about HK$1,000 as city eases travel curbs

Domestic workers gather on their rest day at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Photo: Hong Kong’s Information Services Department
Domestic workers gather on their rest day at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Photo: Hong Kong’s Information Services Department

Monthly salaries for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong have reportedly dropped by around HK$1,000 (U$127), returning to pre-restrictions level as the city eases travel curbs. 

Speaking on an RTHK program on Tuesday, Thomas Chan, the chairman of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, noted that the lifting of restrictions, such as the mandatory hotel quarantine and flight bans on Indonesia and the Philippines, has normalized the supply of incoming domestic workers, bringing down their average salaries from previous pandemic highs. 

The wages for domestic workers rose to as high as HK$6,500 when only workers who had completed their contracts and were still in Hong Kong could be hired, but the easing of restrictions has already caused that number to drop down to around HK$5,000 to HK$5,300.

The minimum wage for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong is HK$4,630.

Nonetheless, Chan said the easing of restrictions was a good thing for foreign domestic workers, as well as their employers and employment agencies.  

“Employers can save money by not needing to pay for quarantine hotels and pre-departure PCR tests,” he said. 

On the other hand, workers can save on traveling as they do not need to make the trip from rural areas to the city for PCR testing, he added. 

Since Monday, arrivals to Hong Kong can go home or to a hotel of their choice after completing testing in the airport for three days of medical surveillance. During this period of time, they can go out but will not be able to enter venues that are required to check visitors using the city’s vaccine pass system such as restaurants and bars.   

During the medical surveillance period, foreign domestic workers can work at their employers’ residences and go out to conduct daily essential activities that are considered lower risk, such as taking public transport and shopping at markets.

But employers who still want their domestic workers to quarantine for a few days can arrange for them to stay at licensed hotels or guesthouses. In that situation, the employer would still have to pay the worker a sum equivalent to the amount he or she would have earned if he or she had been working during that period, as well as cover accommodation costs and provide a food allowance. 

Chan said that, from what he understood, 30 to 40 percent of employers have chosen that option. 

He also said the waiting period for a worker to arrive in Hong Kong now is about two to 2.5 months, down from six to nine months back when the flight bans were in place.

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