Hong Kong urged to increase minimum wage or lose Pinoy domestic workers to mainland China

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By William Casis | FilAm Star Correspondent

If Hong Kong wants to stay competitive and keep on attracting dependable and educated Filipino household staff, ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto ‘John’ Bertiz III said it should increase the pay of the 190,000 Filipino domestic workers in their country.

Bertiz has joined the clamor for a 25-percent increase in the statutory minimum wage for Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

He noted that Hong Kong families are under pressure to hold on to their Filipino domestic workers, amid the lure of greener pasture in mainland China, Bertiz said.

“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,” Bertiz said.

He said rich families in China want 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.

Hong Kong’s 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.

Filipinos account for 53 percent of the 360,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, Bertiz said.

Hong Kong has acknowledged it could lose up to 50 percent of its Filipino domestic workers due to superior pay in the mainland ranging from the Chinese yuan 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, according to the autonomous Chinese territory’s Labor and Welfare Bureau.

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).

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

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

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