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Domestic Workers Contribute 3.6% of Hong Kong’s GDP

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May is Helper Appreciation Month, and as the Discovery Bay community organizes events to acknowledge the contributions of domestic helpers, it is also a good time to recognize how much domestic helpers contribute to the Hong Kong economy. Research conducted by Enrich, a Hong Kong-based charity aiming to educate domestic workers, and the information-services company, Experian, shows that domestic workers contribute over HK$98.9 billion to Hong Kong’s annual economy, which makes up 3.6% of the GDP.

Hong Kong’s demand for domestic workers is increasing consistently due to the ageing population, lowering fertility rates and a lack of affordable healthcare services. The Hong Kong government has estimated that this demand will continue to rise in the future. A total of 600,000 migrant domestic workers will be required by 2047, whereas there are only 390,000 this year.

The impact of domestic workers on Hong Kong’s economy is easily overlooked, even though domestic workers allow for extra economic potential. For example, Enrich and Experian’s report demonstrates that domestic workers enable more to enter the workforce which permits two incomes per household. Through employing domestic workers, women’s participation in the labour force increases to 78%. Not only does this contribute to Hong Kong’s economy greatly, but also to family well-being.

Dismissing domestic workers’ significant economic contribution inevitably leads to their financial exclusion. Research shows that in Hong Kong, only 18% of domestic workers have a bank account. Many struggle with high debt. These barriers lead to limited financial awareness, strict regulations for domestic workers to open bank accounts, and an overall lack of funds.

What employers can do

Both Enrich and Experian stress the imperative of recognising the economic contributions of domestic workers in order to maintain Hong Kong’s economic health. Not doing so could make it harder to meet the increasing demand in domestic work in Hong Kong.

Enrich already provides part of the solution through their financial literacy and economic empowerment courses, which enable domestic helpers to plan for their – and their families’ – futures. Enrich’s courses cover everything from retirement planning, investment, budgeting, saving to confident communication and managing family communications on finances.

While Enrich’s classes are heavily subsidised for helpers, the organization also encourages employers to support their aunties’ on-going financial education by contributing to workshop scholarships, which cost just HK$2,000 for 28 hours of tuition.

Zamira Monteiro, Communications Officer at Enrich, recommends that employers empower their domestic workers to be financially successful through transparent communication. That way, “the worker knows that the employer is open to discussing financial issues,” says Zamira. “The employer can even encourage their worker to pursue financial education and set aside a percentage of savings each month.” Zamira also recommends that employers provide monthly pay slips and pay the salary into a bank account rather than paying cash. This then helps the domestic workers keep better track of her income.

Freedom Jackman, from owner of Maid For You, stresses that “a bank account not only contributes significantly to the financial autonomy of your employee but also assists them in mandatory record keeping regarding the payment of wages”. Even though it is challenging for domestic workers to secure an account, Freedom has found that, “ Hang Seng offers a basic ATM account with a minimum balance of only $50, and no withdrawal fees via ATMs”.

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