Domestic workers have gathered outside Hong Kong’s Labour Department urging the authorities to consider an increase in wages.

More than 50 people delivered a petition to officials urging the government to increase the salary for domestic workers from HK$4,110 to HK$4,500 per month under the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW). Demonstrators were also calling for an increase to the food allowance from HK$964 to HK$1,600.

sri lanka india philippines indonesia
Domestic workers outside the Labour Department demanding a wage and food allowance increase. Photo: Lory Jean T. Yungco.

The protest was organised by the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body (AMCB), an umbrella organisation that represents multiple NGOs and charities that support domestic workers.

AMCB said the reason why it decided to hold the demonstration was because the Labour Department was carrying out a review into wages for foreign domestic workers.

The government increased the MAW last year from HK$4,010 to HK$4,110. The food allowance also went from HK$920 to HK$964. Dollores Balladares Palaez, a spokesperson for the AMCB, described the increases as “meagre.”

sri lanka india indonesia philippines
Foreign Domestic Workers waving placards outside the Labour Department. Photo: Lory Jean T. Yungco.

“A HK$4,500 wage hike for FDWs can no longer be deferred, especially as we asked for this a year ago. But the Hong Kong government refuses to listen to our collective demand,” she said.

“FDWs work an average of 16 hours a day as compared to 10 hours for local workers. And yet they only get roughly half the wages of the locals.”

sri lanka india indonesia philippines
Members of the AMCB with their petition for the Labour Department Photo: Lory Jean T. Yungco.
Lory Jean T. Yungco, a member of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union, said FDWs needed the increase because their wages weren’t enough to cover the cost of living in Hong Kong.

“The living conditions and expenses are rising,” she told HKFP.

“We have our own expenses and allowances, so our wages aren’t enough for us for the whole month. We also have to send money to our own families.”

HKFP has approached the Labour Department for comment.

Vicky is a British-born Chinese journalist with three years of experience covering UK politics. She previously worked for PoliticsHome and has interned at Sky News and CNN International. She also co-produced and filmed a documentary about the Hong Kong protests for MSNBC, which won the grand student prize at the 2015 Human Rights Press Awards. She has a BA in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading and moved to Hong Kong in 2014 to complete a journalism masters at the University of Hong Kong.