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Box 1: Origins of the foreign domestic helper market in Hong Kong

In 1974, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region opened legal immigration channels for domestic workers from other Asian economies. Prior to this point, only unskilled workers from China had been granted entry. According to Hong Kong Labour Department officials interviewed, this change in policy towards foreign domestic workers was prompted by pressure from the growing number of Western expatriates in the colony earning high salaries and enjoying affluent lives. Simultaneously, fewer and fewer local women were willing to take lowpaying, lowstatus work. As the

economy grew, so particularly among Government (HKG)

did the working

demand for domestic workers by the couples who could not find child care.

local population, The Hong Kong

responded to this development by regulation.

This would serve to

protect local workers from cheap workers from exploitation. The law market has evolved.

overseas has been

competition as well as protect foreign regularly reviewed and tightened as the

Note: Domestic helpers in Hong Kong are overwhelmingly nonChinese in origin and female. These women live in their employer’s residence and perform various duties, such as cooking, cleaning and childminding.

4.1 Hong Kong’s foreign domestic helper market today

Hong Kong remains a major receiving country for migrant workers, particularly women

from Southeast Asia who work as foreign domestic helpers approximately 7 million, nearly 9 percent of all households

maids7. account

The latest census for almost two-thirds

and immigration records reveal of the city's 370,000 non-Chinese

(FDHs). In a city of employ foreign live-in that domestic workers population8.

7 Jacob Adelman. "Hong Kong's Filipino maids aid Indonesian newcomers: Seasoned workers impart local laws on wages, abuse." Chronicle Foreign Service. November 18, 2004. Census and Statistics Department, 2006. http://www.censtatd.gov.hk 8

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