CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Call for pay hike for foreign domestic workers

HONG KONG (SE): The Justice and Peace Commission is pushing for 25 per cent pay rise in the minimum wage for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. 
Around 300 foreign domestic workers, dressed in red, marched from Chater Road to the Central Government Offices in Tamar on September 9 to fight for an increase of their minimum allowable wage from $4,410 to $5,500 as well as an up in food allowance from $1,053 to $2,500. The rally was organised by the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body.
Jackie Hung Ling-yu, a project officer for the commission, said the demands for a wage hike as well as proper rest time are reasonable, as present wage levels are too low due to inflation and the lack of adequate increments in the past years.
The Hong Kong SAR government will announce the result of its review on the minimum wages for foreign domestic workers by the end of this month. There are more than 360,000 domestic helpers working in Hong Kong, according to government statistics from last year, including 190,000 Filipinos and 154,000 Indonesians.
People at the rally also demanded a continuous rest time of at least 11 hours per day as well as the break for three daily meals to be stipulated in their contract. 
Hung said adjusting the wage to $5,500 would mean an increase of 25 per cent, which may sound too high. However, she explained that the percentage of wage increase for foreign domestic workers should always be higher than that of others as they belong to the lowest income group, whose lives are considerably affected by increases in the cost of living. 
Over the years since 2011, the actual wage increase only amounts two to three per cent or even less. 
Hung added that an annual wage increase of $100 would be an insult if it was offered to any other worker in Hong Kong. “We need to treat foreign domestic workers fairly as other local workers,” she said. 
A salary is reasonable if it helps to provide a decent living for the domestic workers, but this is often not the case for many. 
She believes a substantial increase is only a way to help foreign domestic workers to really shoulder the financial burdens caused by inflation and make up for the minimal annual increment, which the government claims is decided basing on a basket of economic indictors.
Hung acknowledged that some employers probably cannot afford to pay $5,500 as they have their own financial burdens as well, but she argued that the salary of foreign domestic workers cannot be kept at a low level forever, which would mean that they are constantly deprived. 
She believes that families which find foreign domestic workers too expensive should be provided with the services of care centres for the elderly or infants, something the Hong Kong government has failed to supply enough.
Sringatin, spokesperson of the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body, said a work schedule should be observed as many foreign domestic workers do not have enough rest due to heavy workload, which forces them to reduce their sleeping time, while some are even awakened by their employers for work in the early hours.  
She said the wage level of $5,500 is the lowest reasonable amount due to the high inflation rates in Hong Kong. “It is time for the Hong Kong government to value our work in the city and at the same time make more efforts to ensure our health and safety,” the group demanded. 

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