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Hong Kong raises minimum wage for foreign workers

October 2013, 07
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Domestic workers due to move to Hong Kong will benefit from new and improved laws which will see their minimum salary increased and their food allowance enhanced.
The changes will apply to all workers whose contracts began after 1 October and is a move by the Hong Kong government designed to improve conditions for foreign workers.


The increase in the minimum wage and allowance

In Hong Kong, any household employing a foreign worker must pay at least the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) and either provides free food or a food allowance on top.
The Acting Labour Secretary Danilo Cruz announced that the minimum wage was being hiked by HK$90 to HK$4010, an increase of 2.3%. The minister also confirmed that the food allowance was also rising to HK$920, a much sharper climb of 5.4%.

Hong Kong Foreign workers
Hong Kong is improving the way it looks after foreign workers
These minimum standards were introduced by the Hong Kong government originally in order to ensure that all foreign workers were protected and not exploited upon arrival in the state.
Part of these measures included the stipulation that foreign workers must be given free food as part of their contract, or if preferable, an allowance which covers their meals. The vast majority of employers opt to provide their domestic workers with free food but a minority pay an allowance instead.


Striking a Balance

The move from the Hong Kong government came after a special report from the Labour Attaché to Hong Kong, Manuel Roldan.
Roldan was quick to confirm that the government was attempting to strike a balance between the needs of all parties.
The minister said the decision had been reached after a long and careful assessment of the needs of workers as well as the economic landscape. According to Roldan, the Hong Kong government had considered 'a basket of economic indicators' including such measures as price change, economic movement, the labour market and the affordability of employers.
As a result of this research, the Hong Kong government found that there was a growing need to 'strike a balance between affordability of employers and the livelihoods of foreign domestic helpers' and as such, introduced the increases in the MAW and food allowance.

Hong Kong is home to a lot of foreign workers
Hong Kong is home to a lot of foreign workers
The government was especially keen to review the allowance given in lieu of food, and compared this against the rising cost of living based on the CPI.


Not all workers will benefit 

The changes to the MAW and food allowances will not be applied as a blanket rule across all workers already in the country. Instead, only relatively new contracts will be affected by the change and employers could be forced to up how much they pay.
The increase will apply with effect from all contracts signed from 1 October onwards but some leeway will be granted to applications which are still being processed. Where the previous MAW and food allowance amounts are being paid, providing the contracts were signed on 30 September  or before, and are submitted by 28 October, they will not processed under the new rules.
Workers already in Hong Kong on an existing contract will be unaffected by the change and their employers will be allowed to continue remunerating them at the previous rate.
The labour attaché insisted that the changes made were done to protect the individuals who had arrived from overseas and not to impede any other of the contract changes any employer wanted to make.
 

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