Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong
Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are foreign domestic worker
Domestic worker
A domestic worker is a man, woman or child who works within the employer's household. Domestic workers perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping...

s and housemaids employed by Hongkongers, typically families. They make up approximately 3% of the population of Hong Kong and an overwhelming majority of them are women. In 2010, there were 284,901 foreign domestic helpers in the city, of which 48% were from the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, 49.4% from Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, and 1.3% from Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

. They usually live in their employer's residence and perform various household duties such as cooking, cleaning, and child-minding.

Since October 2003, the employment of helpers has been subject to the Employees' Retraining Levy totalling HK$9,600 for the duration of a two-year contract. It is unpopular with employers and helpers alike and there have been repeated calls for its abolition. Controversy resulted from "official muddle and civil-service clumsiness" of a two-year waiver of the levy announced by Chief Executive
Chief Executive of Hong Kong
The Chief Executive of Hong Kong is the President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong and head of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The position was created to replace the Governor of Hong Kong, who was the head of the Hong Kong government during British rule...

 Sir Donald Tsang on 16 July 2008. The administrative errors were denounced by the newspaper editorials of all allegiances.

Common terms

In Hong Kong Cantonese, the term 女傭 (maid) and 外傭 (foreign servant) are a neutral and socially acceptable term for foreign domestic helpers.

However, the term fei yung (菲傭, Filipino servant) refers to foreign domestic helpers regardless of their origin because the term was dubbed at a time when most foreign domestic helpers came from the Philippines. While fei yung is considered politically correct
Politically Correct
Politically Correct may refer to:*Political correctness, language, ideas, policies, or behaviour seeking to minimize offence to groups of people-See also:*Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, book by James Finn Garner, published in 1994...

, the derogatory slang term bun mui (賓妹, Filipino girl) is also used, however it has become a common term and often not used in a derogatory sense.

In Chinese-language government documentation, foreign domestic helpers are referred to as 家庭傭工, translated as "domestic workers", that are either "of foreign nationalities" or "recruited from abroad", as in 外籍家庭傭工 or 外地區聘用家庭傭工, respectively. The government uses wording with the same meanings in English-language documentation, but it specifically uses the term "domestic helper" instead of "domestic worker".


Faced with a poor performing economy in the 1970s, the President of the Philippines
President of the Philippines
The President of the Philippines is the head of state and head of government of the Philippines. The president leads the executive branch of the Philippine government and is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines...

, Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. was a Filipino leader and an authoritarian President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He was a lawyer, member of the Philippine House of Representatives and a member of the Philippine Senate...

 implemented the Labor Code of 1974
Labor Code of the Philippines
The Labor Code of the Philippines stands as the law governing employment practices and labor relations in the Philippines. It was enacted on Labor day of 1974 by President Ferdinand Marcos, in the exercise of his then extant legislative powers.-Features:...

, beginning the Philippines' export of labour in the form of Overseas Filipino Workers
Overseas Filipino
An Overseas Filipino is a person of Philippine origin who lives outside of the Philippines. This term applies both to people of Filipino ancestry who are citizens or residents of a different country and to those Filipino citizens abroad on a more temporary status.Most overseas Filipinos migrate to...

. The Philippine government promoted and encouraged labour export as a way to combat rising unemployment rates and to finance its coffers with overseas workers' remittances home. In the following years, the economy of the Philippines
Economy of the Philippines
The Economy of the Philippines is the 43rd largest in the world, according to the World Bank with an estimated 2010 gross domestic product of $200 billion, it is estimated that by 2015, the ranking of the Philippines would go up to the 18th and by the year 2050 it will land on the 14th...

 became increasingly dependent on labour export, and in 1978, recruiting agencies for labour export were privatised, making it a cornerstone of the Philippine national development strategy.

This trend of increasing labour export in the Philippines was to coincide with the economic rise of Hong Kong in the late 1970s
1970s in Hong Kong
1970s in Hong Kong underwent many changes that shaped its future. Economically, it reinvented itself from a manufacturing base into a financial centre. The market also began leaning toward corporations and franchises.-Background:...

 and early 1980s
1980s in Hong Kong
1980s in Hong Kong marks a period when the territory was known for its wealth and trademark lifestyle. Hong Kong would be recognised internationally for its politics, entertainment and skyrocketing real estate prices.-Background:...

. When the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 implemented wide-reaching economic reforms
Chinese economic reform
The Chinese economic reform refers to the program of economic reforms called "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" in the People's Republic of China that were started in December 1978 by reformists within the Communist Party of China led by Deng Xiaoping.China had one of the world's largest...

 in the late 1970s and initiated trade with other countries, Hong Kong became mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

's biggest investor. Labour intensive industries in Hong Kong moved to the mainland, and high profit service industries such as design, marketing, and finance in the city expanded dramatically. To deal with the resulting labour shortage and increase in labour costs, the female labour force was mobilised. Consequently, families with two incomes sought help to manage their households, creating demand for domestic workers. Hong Kong families began hiring foreign domestic helpers from the Philippines, with the number of them hired steadily increasing through the 1980s and the 1990s.

Until the 1990s, foreign domestic helpers mostly came from the Philippines. Since then, to cope with the different demands of prospective employers, the percentages have been shifting away from Philippine helpers, in favour of Indonesian and other nationalities. In the 1990s, Indonesia and Thailand followed the Philippines' model of labour export in order to deal with an increasing economic crisis and Hong Kong families began hiring foreign domestic helpers from these two countries as well. In 1998, according to the Immigration Department, there were 140,357 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong compared to 31,762 from Indonesia. In 2005, official figures showed there were 223,394 foreign domestic helpers in the city; 53.11% were from the Philippines, 43.15% from Indonesia, and 2.05% from Thailand. In 2010, the respective numbers are 136,723 from the Philippines (48%), 140,720 from Indonesia (49.4%), 3,744 from Thailand (1.3%), 893 Sri Lankans, 568 Nepalese, and 2,253 of other nationalities. Vietnamese are not permitted to work in Hong Kong as domestic helpers due to what authorities say are "security reasons", which one lawmaker said were linked to historical problems with Vietnamese refugees

Employment regulations

The Hong Kong government has drawn up rules and regulations specifically regarding the employment, labour, and condition of stay of foreign domestic helpers. An employer and an employee are required to enter into a two year standard contract specifically for the employment of foreign domestic helpers. A few notable regulations regarding the employment of foreign domestic helpers include:
Employers' requirements and obligations
  • a household income of at least HK$15,000 per month for each foreign domestic helper employed;
  • a levy of HK$9,600 for employing a foreign domestic helper, for the duration of a 2-year contract;
  • provide free medical treatment for the foreign domestic helper;
  • payment of a monthly salary of no less than the minimum allowable wage set by the government.

Helpers' rights and obligations
  • required to only perform the domestic duties outlined in the employment contract.
  • not allowed or required to take up any other employment with any other employer during the effective period of the contract;
  • required to work and live in the employer's place of residence, and to be provided with suitable living accommodation with reasonable privacy;
  • entitled to one "rest day" every week, with the rest day being a continuous period of not less than 24 hours.

Minimum allowable wage

Foreign domestic helpers' wages are subject to a statutory minimum, the breach of which is sanctionable under the Employment Ordinance. An employer convicted of paying below the "minimum allowable wage" (MAW) is liable to a maximum fine of HK$350,000 and three years' imprisonment.

Helpers' minimum wages are inflation-adjusted annually for contracts about to be signed, and apply for the duration of the contract. Notably, they were reduced by HK$190 (5%) in 1999. Again in April 2003, in a deflationary environment, the Government announced a HK$400 reduction in pay, to HK$3,270, "due to the steady drop in a basket of economic indicators since 1999." The minimum allowable wage was raised by HK$80 to HK$3,480 per month for contracts signed on or after 6 June 2007. Another HK$100 cost of living adjustment took effect for all employment contracts signed on or after 10 July 2008, increasing the minimum wage to HK$3,580 per month.
Since 2 June 2011, the minimum allowable wage has been set to $3,740 per month.

Employees' Retraining Levy

In October 2003, the Hong Kong government imposed a HK$400 monthly Employees' Retraining Levy for hiring a foreign domestic helper under the Employees Retraining Ordinance when the economy was in a recession. The levy was initiated by the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (Hong Kong)
Liberal Party is a business-friendly liberal conservative political party in Hong Kong.-Party beliefs:The party is known for its conservative and business-friendly policies. Despite being a political party friendly with Beijing, it fits in the centre-right political spectrum...

 in 2002 as one means of tackling the fiscal deficit. It was unveiled by Donald Tsang
Donald Tsang
Sir Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, GBM, KBE is the current Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of the Government of Hong Kong....

 while he was Chief Secretary for Administration
Chief Secretary for Administration
The Chief Secretary for Administration , commonly known as Chief Secretary and abbreviated as CS, is the second highest position of the Hong Kong Government...

 as part of population policy. Tsang declared on one hand that foreign and local domestic workers were two distinct markets, yet he declared that "employers of foreign domestic helpers should play a role in helping Hong Kong in... upgrading the local workforce."

Government Policy Support & Strategic Planning said the levy would be used for the training and retraining of the local workforce, to enhance their employment opportunities. The government said the extension of the levy to include domestic helpers would remove the disparity between imported workers. The Standard said that some sections hoped that fewer foreign maids would be employed in Hong Kong as a result. The senate of the Philippines disagreed with the government, denounced the levy as "discriminatory", and hinted that it would take the issue to the International Labour Organisation. Senate president Franklin Drilon
Franklin Drilon
Franklin Magtunao Drilon is a Filipino politician who served as President of the Senate of the Philippines in 2000 and from 2001 to 2006. Drilon currently serves his third term in the Senate...

 said that levy on domestic workers went against Hong Kong's free-market principles and would damage its reputation for openness to foreign trade, investment and services.

Earlier that year, the minimum wage for foreign domestic helpers was lowered by the same amount, although the government said the reduction in the minimum wage and imposition of the levy at the same time were "unrelated". Lawyers representing the government said that the moves were an "unfortunate coincidence". The measure was expected to bring in HK$150 million annually into government coffers. Government Policy Support & Strategic Planning said the levy would be used for the training and retraining of the local workforce, to enhance their employment opportunities.

Thousands of helpers protested against measures, who feared the financial burden would be passed on to helpers. The government defended the measures as necessary to adjust to Hong Kong's economic woes, and stated that even with the measures, foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong were still better paid than foreign domestic helpers working in other Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

n countries. James Tien
James Tien
James Tien Pei-chun GBS OBE JP is the former Chairman of the Liberal Party , a pro-business and pro-Beijing political party in Hong Kong, and former member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong . He was also a member of the District Council of Hong Kong in the Central and Western district...

 said the monthly wage of Filipina maids in Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 was about HK$1,400, in Malaysia it was HK$1,130.

In 2004, a legal challenge was mounted asserting that the levy imposed on employers was unlawful and constituted a discriminatory tax. In January 2005, High Court
High Court (Hong Kong)
The High Court in Hong Kong consists of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance. It deals with criminal and civil cases which have risen beyond the lower courts. It was named the Supreme Court before 1997.- High Court Building :...

 Justice Michael Hartmann ruled that since the levy was instituted under a statutory scheme, it was not a tax but a fee charged for the privilege of employing non-local workers who would not otherwise have permission to work in Hong Kong. In 2007, the Liberal Party urged the government to abolish the employees retraining levy as a part of its District Councils
District Council of Hong Kong
The District Councils, formerly District Boards until 1999, are the local councils for the 18 Districts of Hong Kong. Under the supervision of Home Affairs Bureau of the Hong Kong Government, they are consultative bodies on district administration and affairs.- History :In 1982, under the...

 election platform, saying that the HK$3.26 billion fund should be used as originally intended: in other words, to train and retrain employees.

In August 2008, regular South China Morning Post
South China Morning Post
The South China Morning Post , together with its Sunday edition, the Sunday Morning Post, is an English-language Hong Kong newspaper, published by the SCMP Group with a circulation of 104,000....

columnist Chris Yeung noted that the case for retaining the levy over the years has become increasingly weak morally and financially: "Middle class people feel a sense of injustice about the levy." Regina Ip
Regina Ip
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, GBS JP is a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong , as well as the co-founder and current chairwoman of the New People's Party and Savantas Policy Institute....

 agreed that the levy had lost its raison d'être.

Employees' Retraining Levy waiver controversy

As part of the "extraordinary measures for extraordinary times" totalling HK$11 billion announced by Donald Tsang
Donald Tsang
Sir Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, GBM, KBE is the current Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of the Government of Hong Kong....

 on 16 July 2008, the levy would be temporarily waived, at an estimated cost of HK$2 billion. The measures were mockingly referred to in the Chinese press as 派糖—handing out candy.

It was announced that the levy would be waived for a two-year period on all helpers' employment contracts signed on or after 1 September 2008, and would not apply to ongoing contracts. The Immigration Department
Immigration Department (Hong Kong)
The Immigration Department of the Government of Hong Kong is responsible for immigration control of Hong Kong. After the People's Republic of China assumed sovereignty of the territory in July 1997, Hong Kong's immigration system remained largely unchanged from its British predecessor model...

 said it would not reimburse levies, which are prepaid half-yearly. The announcement resulted in chaos and confusion, and uncertainty for the helpers. Chris Yeung said that the exemption was a "gimmick dressed up as an economic relief initiative, designed to boost the administration's popularity" in advance of Tsang's forthcoming policy address, in October.

Maids' representatives said that when the waiver was announced, the guidelines were unclear and had no implementation date. Employers deferred contracts or had dismissed helpers pending confirmation of the effective date, leaving helpers in limbo. They protested about the uncertainty, and also demanded an increase in their minimum wage to HK$4,000. Employers had reportedly started terminating their helpers' contracts, sparking fears of mass-terminations. On 20 July, Secretary for Labour and Welfare
Secretary for Labour and Welfare
The Secretary for Labour and Welfare of the Hong Kong Government is responsible for labour and social welfare policy in Hong Kong. The position was created in 2007 to replace portions of the previous portfolio of Secretary for Economic Development and Labour and welfare portion from Secretary for...

 Matthew Cheung
Matthew Cheung
Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, GBS, JP is the Secretary for Labour and Welfare in the Hong Kong Government.Matthew Cheung served as civil servant in the Information Officer Grade of the government in 1972, and he transferred to the Administrative Service in 1979...

 announced the waiver commencement date would be brought forward by one month. The Immigration Department had also temporary relaxed its 14-day re-employment requirement for helpers whose contracts expired.

On 30 July, the Executive Council
Executive Council of Hong Kong
The Executive Council of Hong Kong is a core policy-making organ in the executive branch of the government of Hong Kong.. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong serves as its President.The Executive Council normally meets once a week...

 approved the suspension of the levy for two years from 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2010. After widespread criticism of the situation, the government said maids having advanced renewal of contract would not be required to leave Hong Kong through the discretion exercised by the Director of Immigration
Director of Immigration
The Director of Immigration is the head of the Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Government, which is responsible for immigration issues and controlling entry ports into Hong Kong.-List of Directors of Immigration:* J. Moore...

, and employers would benefit from the waiver simply by renewing the contract within the two-year period. The government also admitted that some employers could benefit from the waiver for up to 4 years. This effect of turning a 2 year moratorium into 4 year suspension potentially doubles the estimated give-away, and was denounced by the newspaper editorials of all allegiances. The levy was criticised as "farcical" in an editorial in the South China Morning Post. Stephen Vines wrote that "the plan for a two-year suspension of the levy... provides an almost perfect example of government dysfunction and arrogance," while Albert Cheng
Albert Cheng
Albert Cheng Jing-han GBS , widely known as "Tai-pan" is a Hong Kong businessman and politician. He is the chairman of Wave Media Limited which is currently preparing to open and operate a new radio station. He was also the host of Now TV's talk show, Sunday Taipan, on the Now Hong Kong Channel...

 said the controversy exposed "worst side of our government bureaucracy" Columnist Frank Ching criticised senior officials for living in their ivory tower
Ivory Tower
The term Ivory Tower originates in the Biblical Song of Solomon , and was later used as an epithet for Mary.From the 19th century it has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life...

s, and said that there would have been no disruption if the government had suspended payment immediately and refunded those who had prepaid. Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor is a local non-governmental organization which was established in April 1995. It aims at promoting better human rights protection in Hong Kong in the aspect of legislation and people's everyday life....

 called for the levy's permanent abolition, saying that the temporary two-year waiver was discriminatory. It criticised the confusion and inconvenience caused to employers and the Immigration Department because the policy had not been thought through properly.


On the morning of 1 August, the Immigration Department gave out 2,180 passes to helpers and agents to collect their visas and submit applications to work in Hong Kong, and undertook to handle all applications submitted. Offices opened one hour earlier than usual, added staff and extended its office hours, to guarantee all 2,180 cases would be processed. Similarly, the Philippine consulate expected to cope with a huge workload as a result of the rehiring provisions. Chinese newspapers published articles calculating how households could maximise their benefits under the waiver rules. There were street protests on 3 August decrying the waiver's unfairness and its administrative burden on the Immigration Department. One protester said that the waiver would only teach households how to use legal loopholes.

The West Kowloon Immigration office in Yau Ma Tei
Yau Ma Tei
Yau Ma Tei, also known as Waterloo , is an area in the Yau Tsim Mong District in the south of the Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong.-Name:Yau Ma Tei is a phonetic transliteration of the name 油麻地 in Cantonese...

 processed 5,000 advance contract renewals, in addition to 7,400 contract renewals during the month of August 2008. Despite the availability of online booking for slots at its 5 branch offices, the daily quota imposed on the number of applications being processed have resulted in daily overnight queues. Touts in Yau Ma Tei have been illegally selling positions in the waiting line for up to HK$120.

Legislative Council debate on suspension

The government is required to move an amendment in the Legislative Council
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
The Legislative Council is the unicameral legislature of Hong Kong.-History:The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was set up in 1843 as a colonial legislature under British rule...

 (LegCo) to suspend the levy in accordance with the Executive Council decision. Faced with calls to abolish the levy, the government was adamant that the levy would not be scrapped. The Secretary for Labour and Welfare said the HK$5 billion fund would only support the work of the Employment Retraining Board for four to five years if the levy was permanently waived.

Regina Ip has started a campaign to abolish the levy and tabled an amendment at LegCo. The government has declared it would attempt to rule it out of order on the grounds that it would breach rule 31(1) of the Rules of Procedures, which prohibit amendments which have an impact on government revenue. Ip challenged the inconsistency of this stance with the 2005 decision in the High Court that the ERL was not a tax. The government also hinted that a bill to abolish would breach Article 74 of the Hong Kong Basic Law
Hong Kong Basic Law
The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, or simply Hong Kong Basic Law, serves as the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China...

, and threatened it would take Article 74 to the central government for interpretation. Legislators and commentators said this was a 'nuclear bomb'. A Hong Kong University academic said that reinterpretation would be "totally disproportionate... route to resolve this dispute."

Under pressure from legislators, the government, through the Executive Council, agreed to extend suspension of the levy from two to five years. The amendment for the five year suspension, one of several proposed amendments to the Employees Retraining Ordinance Notice 2008, was tabled by the DAB, and would apply to first-time and renewed contracts and visas issued between 1 August 2008 and 31 July 2013.


In the year 2011, there are debates that foreign workers can apply for Hong Kong residency, as there are already one million underpriviledged families live under the poverty line in Hong Kong society, some political parties argue Hong Kong do not have sufficient welfare funding to support the 300,000 foreign workers if they can settle in Hong Kong and apply for public housing, and apply for social welfare.
Foreign domestic helpers and their supporters, including activists and employers alike, periodically stage protests about what they view as discriminatory treatment by the Hong Kong government. Major grievances include discrimination, minimum wage, and the two-week stay limit at the end of their employment contracts. According to the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM), foreign domestic helpers face discrimination from both the Hong Kong government and their employers.

Immigration Ordinance

The government requires foreign domestic helpers to leave Hong Kong within two weeks of the termination of their employment contract unless they find employment with another employer. The HKHRM claimed that this is a form of discrimination against foreign domestic helpers, who are almost all Southeast Asian, as the same limitation is not enforced for other foreign workers. This two-week rule has been condemned by two United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Committees: the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Under the Immigration Ordinance, a foreigner may be eligible to apply for permanent residency after having "ordinarily resided" in Hong Kong for seven continuous years, and thus enjoy the right of abode in Hong Kong. However, the definition of "ordinary residency" excludes, amongst other groups, those who had resided in the city as foreign domestic helpers, thus effectively denying them the rights of permanent residents, including the right to vote, even if they had resided in Hong Kong for many years. Specifically, since 1997, section 2(4) of the Immigration Ordinance states that "a person shall not be treated as ordinarily resident in Hong Kong while employed as a domestic helper who is from outside Hong Kong", In 2011, the Court of First Instance
Court of First Instance (Hong Kong)
The Court of First Instance is one of two courts in the High Court of Hong Kong. The court has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters...

 found in Vallejos v. Commissioner of Registration
Vallejos v. Commissioner of Registration
Vallejos v. Commissioner of Registration is a 2011 court case against the government of Hong Kong by a foreign domestic helper seeking permanent residence and the right of abode in Hong Kong. Because of its subject matter it was commonly referred to in the media as the "maids' residency case"...

that this definition of "ordinarily resident" contravened Article 24 of the Basic Law. The latter stipulates that "Persons not of Chinese nationality who have entered Hong Kong with valid travel documents, have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years and have taken Hong Kong as their place of permanent residence before or after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region". This gave rise to early speculation that helpers could gain right of abode. However, Secretary for Security
Secretary for Security
The Secretary for Security is the member of the Hong Kong Government in charge of the Security Bureau, which is responsible for public safety, security, and immigration matters....

 Ambrose Lee
Ambrose Lee
Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong IDSM JP is Secretary for Security of the Hong Kong and a member of the Executive Council. He was appointed to his post on 4 August 2003, replacing Regina Ip-Background:...

 announced that the government would appeal the decision.

Abuse by employers

The possibility of deportation may prevent foreign domestic helpers from reporting violations of their rights or instances of discrimination against them, and the two-week period may not be enough time for them to find new employment. Those who do are deterred by the length of the legal process - cases take up to 15 months to reach the District Court or Labour Tribunal during which time they are not allowed to work. The HKHRM also reports that helpers had been mistreated by their employers: out of 2,500 interviewed, at least 25% had claimed to have experienced violations of their contract, including being paid under the minimum allowable wage amount, not being allowed their mandatory weekly day of rest, and not being allowed to take their statutory holidays
Public holidays in Hong Kong
Public holidays in Hong Kong are holidays designated by the Government of Hong Kong. They allow workers rest from work, usually in conjunction with special occasions.-Public holidays:...

. Also, more than 25% had experienced physical and verbal abuse, including a "significant incidence" of sexual abuses. Caritas
Caritas Hong Kong
Caritas Hong Kong is a charitable organisation of Caritas founded by the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong in July 1953. It started with relief and rehabilitation services to the poor and the distressed after the Second World War. It nowaday expands to involve social service, education service,...

 said that their Asian Migrant Worker Social Service Project helpline received over four thousand calls from helpers, of which 53 were given assistance to stay in Hong Kong to pursue their claims.

Philippine government policy

Filipino foreign domestic helpers have also protested against policies of the Philippine government that targeted Overseas Filipino Workers. In particular, one protest in 1982 was held in opposition of Executive Order No. 857 (EO-857), implemented by Ferdinand Marcos. EO-857 stipulated that overseas contract workers must remit 50% to 70% of their total earnings, and remittances were only allowed to be transferred through authorised government channels.

As recently as February 2007, Filipino foreign domestic helpers have protested against a proposal by the Philippine government that they be required to undergo a "competency training and assessment program" that would cost them P
Philippine peso
The peso is the currency of the Philippines. It is subdivided into 100 centavos . Before 1967, the language used on the banknotes and coins was English and so "peso" was the name used...

10,000 to P15,000 (US$215 to US$320), whereas their monthly salary is typically about US$450. The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment
Department of Labor and Employment (Philippines)
The Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment is the executive department of the Philippine Government mandated to formulate policies, implement programs and services, and serve as the policy-coordinating arm of the Executive Branch in the field of labor and employment...

 defended the proposal, stating that the policy would help protect domestic overseas workers from abuse by their employers.

See also

  • Indonesians in Hong Kong
    Indonesians in Hong Kong
    Indonesians in Hong Kong, numbering 102,100, form the second-largest ethnic minority group in the territory, behind Filipinos. Immigration from Indonesia to Hong Kong began as early as the 1960s, when Indonesian Chinese seeking to escape discrimination and anti-Chinese pogroms relocated to Hong...

  • Filipinos in Hong Kong
    Filipinos in Hong Kong
    There are around 140,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, a lot of whom work as foreign domestic helpers. Filipino maids are known by the locals as fei yung , fei being the first character in the Cantonese phonetic translation of Philippines and yung means maid...

  • Thais in Hong Kong
    Thais in Hong Kong
    Thais in Hong Kong form a sizable minority. In 2003, there were an estimated 13,000 Thai people in Hong Kong, largely women. The 2006 Hong Kong by-census report showed 11,900 Thais living in Hong Kong, making up around 3.5% of the total non-Chinese population of 342,198, and about 0.17% of the...

  • Southeast Asian Hongkongers

External links

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