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12 Emilyzen Ignacio and esenia Mejia

The demand for live-in maids has grown alongside the city’s booming economy. From 2002 to 2007, the number of FDHs in Hong Kong steadily rose from 232,800 to 245,500. Historically, Filipinos have comprised the largest stock of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, however, Filipinos have seen their dominance reduced by the growing number of Indonesian domestic workers (see Table 1).

2002

148,400

78,100

6,700

3,900

237,100

2003

126,600

81,000

5,500

3,800

216,900

2004

119,700

90,000

4,900

3,800

218,400

2005

118,000

96,900

4,500

3,800

223,200

2006

120,800

104,100

4,300

3,600

232,800

2007

123,500

114,400

4,100

3,500

245,500

Table 1: Population Trends of Foreign Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong

Year

The Philippines

Indonesia

Thailand

Others

Total

Source: Hong Kong Labor Department

This recent turn in FDH trends reflects both a growing preference for Indonesian maids and the creation of stiff competition within Hong Kong’s domestic helper market. I n d o n e s i a n d o m e s t i c w o r k e r s t e n d t o b e y o u n g ( i n t h e i r 2 0 s ) , p o o r l y e d u c a t e d a n d By contrast, their Filipino counterparts are uninformed about their legal rights.

typically older, better educated (many are college graduates), informed of their rights,

and proficient in Indonesian maids

English.

However, many

who

speak

Cantonese,

are

Chinese employers are now favoring more docile (the Indonesian migrant

movement is still nascent in Hong statutory weekly 24-hour rest day9.

Kong),

and

more

willing

to

work

without

the

Many Indonesians work for salaries below Hong Kong’s minimum allowable wage (MAW)10. A 2007 report sponsored by Oxfam-Hong Kong revealed that 22 percent of all Indonesian domestic workers in the country were underpaid –or remunerated below the 2006 statutory MAW of HK$ 3,400 per month– down from 56 percent in 200311. While the prevalence of underpayment among Indonesian maids has improved, there is growing concern by migrants and their advocates that current market conditions will

9 Dewi Anggraeni. Dreamseekers: Indonesian Women as Domestic Workers in Asia. Indonesia: ILO, 2006.

10 11 FDHs are the only employees in Hong Kong who currently have a statutory minimum wage. AMC, IMWU, KOTKIHO. “Underpayment 2: The continuing systematic extortion of Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong.” Hong Kong: Oxfam-HK, 2007; Hong Kong’s Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers.

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