domestic helpers

Foreign Domestic Helpers

in Hong Kong



luxury headline domestic worker
cheap right (4) working-class
afford full-time take care of
hire shortage address (2)
live-in foreign account for
NGO presence engine (2)
call for provide room and board
salary require on average
earn earnings maximum
cost income living expense
repay employ recruitment
loan concern in the first place
fee pay raise minimum
abuse issue (2) reserved (2)
eligible highlight international
dawn standard permanent
agency residence advocate (2)
allow workforce backbone (2)
call (3) treatment grow/grew/grown (2)






In many countries, having a domestic worker at home is a luxury reserved for the rich.

But in Hong Kong, employing someone to cook, clean, and help take care of children, elderly relatives and pets is something even working-class families can afford.

That’s because the government makes it cheap to hire foreign domestic helpers. They have been coming to the city since the 1970s to address a shortage of full-time, live-in workers.

Today, there are more than three-hundred sixty-thousand (360,000) foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. They account for ten percent (10%) of the city’s workforce. Ninety-nine percent (99%) of them are women.

More than half, or 190,000, come from the Philippines. Another one-hundred fifty-four thousand (154,000) are from Indonesia.

Their presence has made it possible for Hong Kong families to earn double incomes.

Employers are required to provide the helpers with room and board, and pay them a minimum of HK $4,410 or US $561 a month.

It’s not much, but for many of these workers, that salary is a lot more than what they would be making back in their home countries.

And that’s where a lot of their earnings go.

Non-governmental agencies say Hong Kong’s foreign domestic helpers, on average, send about thirty-two percent (32%) of their monthly salary home to their families.

It used to be more than fifty percent (50%). But rising costs in the city have resulted in helpers having to spend more on living expenses, repaying loans or fees to the recruitment agencies that helped them get their jobs in the first place.

Concern groups are now calling for a nearly twenty-five (25%) pay raise for the helpers.

There are other issues too.

Several cases of employers abusing their domestic helpers have made international headlines.

Rights groups have also highlighted the long hours many domestic helpers have to work, far beyond the standard eight-hour work day. Many say they start work before dawn, and don’t finish until almost midnight.

And despite many helpers having worked in the city for many decades, Hong Kong does not allow them to be eligible for permanent residence. That’s something rights groups have been advocating to change for years.

Foreign domestic helpers have been called the backbone of Hong Kong’s middle-class and the engine of its economy.

Calls are growing for them to have higher wages and better treatment.


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1. Only wealthy and upper-middle class people can afford a domestic helper. Is this entirely true, mostly true, in the middle, yes and no, largely false, completely false, or it depends?

2. What are some of their tasks and responsibilities?

3. Are foreign domestic workers a recent phenomenon in Hong Kong?

4. They are a significant part of the workforce. Is this right or wrong?

5. Do they come mostly from Mexico and El Salvador?

6. The domestic workers are necessary because Hong Kong wives are lazy. Is this entirely correct, mostly correct, in the middle, yes and no, largely incorrect or totally incorrect?

7. Do they earn a lot of money?

8. Have human rights organizations voiced concerns over the plight or foreign domestic workers?


A. Our household employs a domestic helper. Yes or no?

B. Are there domestic workers in your city and country? Is it common to have a domestic helper?

C. Who works as domestic helpers, locals, foreigners, legal immigrants, undocumented (illegal) migrants?

D. Are there any problems or concerns with domestic helpers?

E. What should be done to resolve these issues?

F. What will happen in the future?

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