Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Photo: Asia Times

Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong will get an extra HK$110 (US$14) a month under a government directive, well below the 25% increase that unions had said was needed to cover rising living costs.

The minimum monthly food allowance under the Standard Employment Contract has also been lifted by HK$22 (US$2.81) a month, even though employers are supposed to provide free meals. This will take the total amount to HK$1,075 (US$137.30).

Trade unions had demanded that the minimum allowable wage be pushed up to HK$5,500 (US$702.82), but instead it will rise to HK$4,520 (US$577), effective from Saturday, according to a press statement released Friday. The current rate is HK$4,410 (US$563).

“The Government has … taken into account Hong Kong’s near-term economic outlook, as well as affordability for employers on the one hand and the interests of FDHs [foreign domestic workers] on the other, in reaching the decision on the above-mentioned adjustment,” the press release stated.

However, Eman Villanueva from the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body said the increase did not take into account how expensive it had become to live in a city like Hong Kong.

“The government continues with its practice of giving very token increases rather than considering the actual living costs. I think the pay rise doesn’t meet the demands of the migrant domestic workers,” he said. “It is still nearly HK$1,000 below the living wage.”

Villanueva also criticized the higher food allowance as “a joke” and said his group would continue to fight for a “more reasonable” pay rise from the government.

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