Minimum Wage or More? Paying the Right Salary to Your Domestic Helper

In Hong Kong, a specific legal minimum wage has been set for foreign domestic workers, but some employers pay more. Why?


“You should never pay your domestic helper too much. Your helper starting wage is so high, you will definitely spoil the market for other employers!” A friend of Jane uttered this to her over lunch. Jane felt frustrated because she wanted to be fair to the domestic helper, but also not be taken advantage of.


Little Hiring Experience

Most people in Hong Kong are employees, with little experience as a human resource manager or boss. It is not surprising that many, including my friend, find the process of hiring a domestic helper frustrating. How do you negotiate? How to handle an unjustifiably high salary request? How to make sure you are not taken advantage of?

Let’s be honest: hiring a domestic helper for the first time can be a challenging task. First, you need to find a good online platform or ethical employment agency. Followed by many hours of interviews and possible disappointment until you finally find the right fit (never settle for anything less). And when you think it’s all over, the paperwork process and haggle for salary starts. And with little experience, young mothers like my friend start googling and Facebooking to find out: how much should I pay my new domestic helper?

Some helpers stay for years with the same employer and may even feel like part of the family.
Some helpers stay for years with the same employer and may even feel like part of the family.

Minimum Wage

There is a special minimum wage set for foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. The minimum wage usually reviewed by the Hong Kong government every year, so don’t forget to check the latest regulation before signing a new contract. A simple overlook on your side can lead to three years imprisonment and a fine of HK$350,000. Not a nice surprise to wake up to.

In Hong Kong, different from many other countries, domestic helpers from different countries have the same starting wage. Experience is valued in Hong Kong’s workplace and domestic workers are often proud of their skills and want to be appreciated for it.


Deciding the Wage

In the end, Jane decided to pay her new hire HK$5,000 plus a food allowance. In the process of looking for a new domestic helper, she had interviewed a number of helpers and felt that her first choice was more capable than the others. She reasoned that it would not be right to pay minimum wage to someone who had 8+ years of experience and who was capable of designing healthy, but fun meals for her children.

Interestingly, a few weeks later after the new helper started, that friend commented that the new helper was lovely – she seemed great with the kids, her food was addicting and she was very well-mannered. Jane smiled broadly and decided on the spot that she had made the right decision to pay her helper more than the minimum wage. She felt comfortable with the amount and she could already not imagine having to find another helper who was just as good.