HelperChoice: Average domestic workers’ salary in Hong Kong maintains positive trend for the past four years

For the fourth consecutive year, HelperChoice’s annual salary survey in Hong Kong shows an encouraging trend in the average salary offered by employers. For the first time in history, the average salary of foreign domestic workers exceeds HK$5,000.

According to HelperChoice data, this year, foreign domestic workers have been earning HK$5,012 on average, equalling a 1.35% increase compared to the previous study in 2019, and a 14% increase since 2016.

Despite the slight increase of 1.35% of the average salary, the platform highlights that the increase rate is slower this year than during the previous ones (+3.05% between 2018 and 2019). 

Regarding the districts, HelperChoice identifies clear disparities in the domestic helpers’ salaries according to their employment location. Following the trends of their previous years’ observations, families living in areas considered as more wealthy offer a higher salary to their helpers.

In 2020, the top five Hong Kong districts with the highest wages are: the Wanchai, Southern, North, Central & Western and Sai Kung. Foreign domestic workers in these districts might expect an average salary of HK$5,257 in these areas, with several employers offering up to HK$10,000 per month. 

While the Outlying Islands are absent from the highest paid districts this year, surprisingly, North district enters in the Top 5 districts’ with the highest paid salary for foreign domestic helpers, with an average salary of, that is to say a 8.7% increase compared to 2019. 

On the other hand, the five districts offering the lowest salaries this year are: Kwun Tong, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Wong Tai Sin and Kwai Tsing. Employers in these areas offer an average salary of HK$4,726, which is only HK$96 above the Minimum Allowable Salary (MAW) at the time of HK$4,630. 

Despite this encouraging trend, the average salary offered, HK$5,012, does not yet meet the average salary expected by foreign domestic workers. According to HelperChoice data, on average, domestic helpers request a salary of HK$5,259, that is to say HK$247 more than what employers offer at the moment. 

If we go back in time, we can observe that the Minimum Allowable Salary (MAW) increases, on average, by 2.4% every year and follows the Consumer Price Index (CPI) trend, which evolves at an average rate of 2% each year (but suffered a 0.4% decrease between 2020 and 2019).

Covid-19 has unfortunately deeply impacted a lot of Filipino overseas workers, including domestic workers. It is estimated that so far more than 345,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have lost their jobs worldwide, and many more struggle to find a new position abroad due to travel bans. A huge loss for the Philippines citizens and Economy as a whole, as around 10% of the Philippines’ GDP relies on OFWs remittances. 

While the Hong Kong government provided help to most residents, including HK$10,000 to all permanent residents under the Cash Payout Scheme, it was decided to not raise the minimum allowable wage of foreign domestic workers this year. 

This decision stresses even more the financial burden, as well as the difference in status and working conditions made between foreign domestic workers and other workers in the city. Despite representing 400,000 people in the Hong Kong working force, foreign domestic workers are the only workers who cannot access permanent residency in Hong Kong after 7 years of employment in the city. 

In 2020, the HelperChoice registered a 6% increase in foreign domestic workers looking for a new job due to termination of their previous contract, mostly because of their employer’s relocation. 

“This situation is increasing the dependence of Filipino families to foreign domestic workers still employed, or already abroad and looking for a new job. It is even more important to help foreign domestic workers who are currently in Hong Kong finishing their contracts or the ones who have seen their contracts being terminated (mostly due to financial reasons or relocations of their employer) to find another position before they have to go back to the Philippines unemployed.” Mahee Leclerc, Managing Director of HelperChoice said.

To face this, HelperChoice has set a new process in 2020 for all foreign domestic workers looking for a job, who are already in Hong Kong, helping them improve their CVs in order to find a new employer as quickly as possible. 

Apart from the increase in contracts’ terminations, most of the domestic workers surveyed by HelperChoice mentioned deterioration of their working conditions: 

A majority denouncing an increase in the workload (31%), and longer working hours (25%). Unfortunately, due to the difficult social and economic situation, 21% of the domestic workers surveyed also mention being in constant fear of termination of their contract, affecting their mental well-being. 

With the implementation of social distancing amid Covid-19, HelperChoice witnessed a strong increase of its traffic, increasing by 150% new users between late March and early April. 

Hong Kong residents have been limiting unnecessary travels as much as possible during the peak of the epidemic, most of them working from home, so it’s only logical that they switched to an online solution to hire their domestic helper instead of going to an agency. 

HelperChoice has the largest database of finished contracts domestic helpers in the city, and these contract statuses are the easiest to hire in the current situation. 

“This phenomenon is not a temporary trend, but more like a structural change in the industry. After months of political unrest and now, sanitary crisis, Hong Kongers and foreign domestic workers, who were favouring traditional employment agencies before, are now turning to online services for good,” Leclerc added.

In Hong Kong it is mandatory for domestic helpers to live with their employers. Considering the housing costs in Hong Kong, this has of course a huge impact on the domestic helpers’ budget and the money they can save or send back home. 

However, the comfort of the living arrangements plays a significant part in domestic workers’ working conditions. 20% of the domestic workers surveyed would prefer to live-out, and 75% to have a private room. Earlier this month, a domestic helper lost a Court of Appeal challenging the ‘live-in’ rule in the city, saying tat the live-in requirement was part of the wider systemic discrimination faced by foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. 

As the employers can specify the type of accommodation they offer to their domestic workers, HelperChoice also investigated which types of living arrangements are the most common. The survey exposed that a large majority (66%) of job offers included a private room, whereas 22% offered a room shared with a child, 9% a room shared with another domestic worker and 3% a room shared with an adult. It is important to note that domestic helpers cannot sleep in the same room as another adult of the opposite sex. 

 

Senators slam Duterte’s full pardon on Pemberton

President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent granting of full pardon on former US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton ignited objections from different sectors, from the general public to showbiz personalities.

Politicians, too, have their own say on the matter, starting off with none other than Duterte himself. “You have not treated Pemberton fairly. So, i-release ko. Pardon. Eh ang pardon, walang mga question ‘yan (there are no questions there),” the president said in his public address.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, however, slammed the move, boldly saying that it was “an unbelievable affront” not only to the LGBTQI+ community but also to the Filipino people.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also criticized Duterte’s move, saying: “This questionable and highly controversial pardon helps to redirect and divert the public’s attention away from the incompetent, corrupt and failing [COVID-19] campaign.”

Duterte OKs P5-billion fund for OFW repatriation

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the additional P5-billion fund to be used for the repatriation and aid of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The additional fund is expected to help about 597,469 OFWs under the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Abot Kaya ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program.

DOLE’s request for new budget came after Secretary Silvestre Bello III bared that the agency has nearly exhausted its P2.5 billion for AKAP. Under the said program, OFWs receive a one-time cash aid amounting to P10,000. More than 233,000 OFWs already got cash aid as of August 8, and around 130,000 OFWs were sent home since May 15, according to the labor department.

ABS-CBN continues its service to Filipino people via digital platforms

ABS-CBN is far from being killed, despite the House committee’s refusal to renew the franchise of its broadcasting business.

To recap, seventy members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted ‘yes’ for the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application on its final and 13th hearing last Friday (July 10).

“Labis po kaming nasasaktan sa desisyon ng committeee ng Legislative Franchises na tanggihan ang franchise ng ABS-CBN. Naniniwala kaming nakapagbigay kami ng serbisyong makabuluhan at mahalaga sa Filipino. Gayunpaman nagpapasalamat kami sa komite para sa pagkakataon na maipahayag ang aming panig sa mga issues laban sa amin,” said ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak.

With the paralysis of ABS-CBN’s business arm, members of its 11,000-people workforce are in danger of losing jobs by August, adding to the growing number of unemployment cases in the country amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Nevertheless, the network may still be able to continue its programs on digital platforms outside the franchise regulations of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

This opens an opportunity for ABS-CBN to reach a global audience much larger than the 69 million Filipinos who have access to free TV in the Philippines.

Ex-detained human rights lawyer files charges vs Chinese officials

Freed Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has filed charges against two Chinese officials for tormenting him during his secret imprisonment, as per the archives seen by the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Detained in 2015 as part of a general crackdown on many legal counselors and rights activists, Wang was discharged in April after four-and-a-half years in a correctional facility.

In the complaint filed before the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Tianjin People’s Procuratorate, Wang accused two Tianjin Public Security Bureau examiners, Guo Aiqiang and Fu Rui, of torment to extract an admission, slander, and embarrassment.

“On 3 August 2015, the complainant was secretly detained on charges of picking quarrels and stirring trouble, incitement to subvert state power, and subversion of state power,” the lawsuit read.

“The complainant was verbally insulted, spat on, slapped, denied toilet access for lengthy periods, prevented from turning over while sleeping, and subjected to various methods to coerce a confession for 15 hours a day for a total of almost a month by Guo Aiqiang and Fu Rui,” it added.

Where is PAO Chief Persida Acosta amid COVID-19 crisis?

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines just exceeded the 50,000th mark and amid the things happening around, one might ask: “Where is Persida Acosta?”

Last year, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta was outspoken in leading an intensive investigation into the alleged deaths caused by the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia and filed several complaints on the matter. She was at odds with Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III because of the Dengvaxia issue.

Duque even blamed the PAO chief’s allegations, saying that they resulted in the decline of vaccine confidence among Filipinos and a rise in cases of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

But even before Duque, Acosta had been in a bad light with former DOH Secretary Janette Garin (now Iloilo 1st District Representative), who was among the former cabinet officials facing charges for implementing the Dengvaxia drive during President Benigno Aquino III’s administration. Acosta and Garin already made peace last Christmas, by the way.

We’re not sure about her and Duque because she has been surprisingly mum about the allegations and controversies surrounding the current DOH secretary.

Maybe she’s just comfortable with her writing gigs in different news outlets or she’s just busy commanding the site of the new PAO central office building complex.

At least, President Rodrigo Duterte did not forget her as new vans were delivered to the PAO’s office from the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Chinese woman causes commotion, gets arrested in Makati City

A Chinese woman was handcuffed and brought to the Makati Police Station after causing a commotion in Makati in the afternoon of July 7.

Around 5:15 PM yesterday, the woman was having an altercation with traffic enforcers along Makati Avenue corner Jupiter Street in Barangay Bel Air, Makati City.

Complainant Jefferson Sosa, 27 years old, Filipino, was riding his bicycle when he saw the suspect Dong Li, a 27-year old Chinese national, having an altercation while badmouthing traffic enforcers.

The woman, without any apparent reason, approached the complainant and hit him with a white umbrella. She also punched Sosa’s face, resulting in minor scratches and injuries.

In that instance, MAPSA personnel Narciso Abrogar and Ronel Cancio immediately arrested the Chinese national.

Robredo urges Filipino LGBTQIA+ community to continue the fight for rights

In this year’s celebration of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and other orientation (LGBTQIA+) this June (Pride Month), Vice President Leni Robredo delivered a speech for the community in the Philippines.
 
“Alam ko, marami siguro sa inyo ang frustrated sa maraming bagay at ganap ngayon. Parang ang hirap pa ring kumbinsihin ang iba na it’s time to be progressive, to embrace diversity, na hindi na gagana ang lumang pag-iisip. Nauunawaan ko ito, pero huwag sana kayong panghinaan ng loob,” said Robredo.
 
“Darating din ang araw na babalikan natin ang lahat ng ito at sasabihing, everything was worth the effort. Everything was worth the sacrifice. Everything was worth the fight. Push lang nang push, mga besh!” she added.
 
Robredo said that the COVID-19 pandemic, which put the entire world to stand still, should not be a hindrance for the LGBTQIA+ community fight for equality and human rights, especially since Pride has always been associated with protest and activist movements.
 
“Puno ng alinlangan at kawalang kasiguruhan ang mundo ngayon. Sa isang iglap, nagbago ang takbo ng buhay. Many of the things we once cherished and held on to are now being questioned and challenged. Sa kabila nito, marami pa ring bagay ang di nagbabago at nagpapatuloy: tulad ng ating laban para sa patas na karapatan, dignidad, at kalayaan,” she continued.
 
“Sa ating pagbuo ng isang post-COVID 19 na mundo, huwag sana kayong panghinaan ng loob; makilahok, makiisa, at huwag magsawang rumampa. Magsimula sa mga maliit ngunit kongkretong hakbang. Tulungan ang kayang tulungan, mag-reach out sa mga kaibigan, bumuo ng support groups, paliwanagan ang mga tito, tita, at mga magulang,” Robredo urged.

Cops nab Pride March protesters rallying against anti-terror bill

Authorities arrested protesters who are against the proposed anti-terrorism bill along Morayta Street in Manila on June 26 (Friday).
“Yes. Papunta palang sila sa General Assignment Section ng MPD,” said Manila Police District Chief Brig. Gen. Rolly Miranda via a text message.  
In a separate message, MPD General Assignment Section Chief Capt. Arnold Echalar said that the protesters will face complaints of non-cooperation, illegal assembly, and resistance and disobedience to a person in authority.
Gabriela Youth, however, condemned the arrest, citing that the protest was part of the Pride March which the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) community celebrates every month of June.

Supreme Court dismisses SolGen’s quo warranto petition vs ABS-CBN

Supreme Court Public Information Chief Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka announced the dismissal of the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against ABS-CBN.
“I was able to confirm with Chief Justice (Diosdado) Peralta that the Supreme Court dismissed today during their en banc meeting the quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General against ABS-CBN Corporation on the ground of mootness,” said Hosaka.
 
Calida filed the petition on February 10 to stop ABS-CBN from operating, citing several violations of its franchise.

The Supreme Court branded the petition as moot because the television giant’s franchise is already expired.