Only around half of Nepalese domestic workers are paid the legal minimum and granted their legally entitled holidays, a survey conducted by the Union of Nepalese Domestic Workers has found.

The Union of Nepalese Domestic Workers in Hong Kong (UNDW) surveyed 106 Nepalese domestic workers between mid-July and late September. They found that 44.8 per cent of those surveyed were underpaid. The lowest paid interviewee received a wage of HK$1,700 per month. The minimum allowable wage set by the government is HK$4,210 per month.

domestic worker helper
File photo: Robert Godden.

The survey also found that 53.5 per cent of the respondents do not get receive the full 24-hour rest day required by the law. Some interviewees said they are usually allowed an eight-hour rest day. Most said it was because their employer would not allow a full 24-hours.

Only around half – 50.5 per cent – of respondents said they received annual leave and statutory holidays. Of those who did not have annual leave, 51 per cent said they didn’t know about it and 30 per cent said their employer would not allow it. Under Hong Kong labour law, foreign domestic workers are entitled to statutory holidays and at least seven days of annual leave.

During the survey, the union discovered that some employers forge documents and make the workers sign payment slips to claim that they were paid legally. 23% of respondents said they sign payment slips.

nepalese domestic workers
A press release for the launch of the UNDW survey. Photo: UNDW.

Nepalese workers appear to have less knowledge about their rights and seem to be scared to speak up because they are afraid of contract termination, the report said. 70 per cent of those it surveyed admitted that they feel that they have little to no knowledge about their own rights.

There are few Nepalese domestic workers in Hong Kong compared to domestic workers of other ethnicities, such as Filipino or Indonesian workers, and therefore people generally have less interest in them and pay less attention to their conditions, said the union.

It urged the Labor Department to investigate the situation of South Asian domestic workers and actively enforce the law. The union also demanded that the government educate Nepalese workers on their legal rights, and that it work actively with the Indian and Nepalese consulates to protect the legal rights of South Asian domestic workers in Hong Kong.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.