Hong Kong

Country Profile

Facts & Figures

There are nearly 400,000 migrant domestic workers actively in Hong Kong as of 2019. This is nearly 6% of the country's total population. The vast majority of these workers are from the Philippines and Indonesia. For these migrant workers, Hong Kong is considered a decent option: it boasts a modern city infrastructure, high English proficiency, and fairly thorough resources for people wishing to come work there. ¹

The GDP of Hong Kong has more than doubled in the last two decades.² With this rapid growth has come a generation of women who are increasingly interested in developing leisure lives and fruitful careers, instead of working as housewives.³ This has created a demand for domestic workers, a position which has been overwhelmingly filled by foreign workers from Southeast Asian countries, starting in the 1970s.

In November of 2017, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr. Law Chi-kwong stated that Hong Kong’s growing elderly population means the city will need an increase of 240,000 domestic helpers in the next few decades.⁴ Increasing demand for foreign domestic workers in mainland China where pay for this work is much higher, coupled with high fees for agents who facilitate the workers coming to Hong Kong means that the city may face difficulties filling this need.⁵


Help For Domestic Workers provides a manual for domestic workers in Hong Kong explaining their legal protections, general information on Hong Kong customs, as well as advice on what to do in the case of conflict with an employer. The site also includes a form to request help.

FDH Portal is the official portal for employment of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. It provides details in 12 different languages of how to apply for positions. Prospective workers can apply directly via this website. Hong Kong boasts one of the most comprehensive and informative official recruitment portals, offering pamphlets on the rights and obligations of foreign domestic workers, sample contracts and pay slips, and videos containing information about working in Hong Kong. Information about the minimum wage is easily visible. The site also has resources for employers, from recruitment agencies to information on how to build a "harmonious relationship" with their employee. The briefing ppt contains all vital information for an incoming foreign domestic worker.

Legal Framework

Employment Ordinance, Chapter 57 is the main piece of legislation regarding migrant labor in Hong Kong. It was first enacted in 1968, and has seen several updates since. The ordinance details the rules and protections applicable foreign domestic workers, including paid holidays, severance payment, and rules for termination of employment. It also prohibits the employment of children under 15 years old, except in specific non-industrial establishements, and only if they cntinue to attend full-time schooling. children under 13 years old may only work in entertainment, and only in specific conditions. The Ordinance limits the maximum working hours to 8 hours daily between 7 am and 7 pm, for a total of 48 hours weekly, and a maximum of 6 days per week. Workers should not work for more than 5 hours continuously without a break. Overtime employment and working on statutory holidays are prohibited, and any changes to condiions of employment must be approved by the Labour Department and visibly displayed in the workplace.

Under the Employment Ordinance, employment agencies must be licensed by the Labour Department, to be renewed annually. The amount of commission which an employment agency may receive may not exceed 10% of the employee's first month's wages.

It is still extremely difficult for migrant domestic workers to acquire permanent residency in Hong Kong due to immiration policies.


Discrimination and negative sentiment toward foreign domestic labor migrants in Hong Kong is widely prevalent. Media depicts the workers in a light of casual racism.⁶ This contributes to the segregation in society that the group experiences, physically allowed to coexist in the city yet not allowed any more permanent settlement. Petitions have been held by the Hong Kong population to reclaim public spaces which the workers take up during their rest day with their leisure activities.⁷

Reports of exploitation and abuse are not uncommon. The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions reports that while the legal framework makes Hong Kong seem like an ideal receiving country, laws are often not enforced, leaving foreign domestic workers to pay exorbitant fees to recruitment agencies, and often leaving workers subject to long working hours and abusive conditions.

Future Prospects

The economic crisis of the late 1990s pushed locals in Hong Kong to seek jobs as domestic workers in the city, with periods of higher unemployment correlating to a higher supply of locals looking for domestic work.⁸ This volatility in the job situation means that the foreign domestic labor migrants working in Hong Kong experience constant uncertainty of their future incomes and continued residency in the city. Another economic crisis will have major impacts on their livelihoods.


  1. Data.gov.hk. 2020. Statistics On The Number Of Foreign Domestic Helpers In Hong Kong | DATA.GOV.HK. https://data.gov.hk/en-data/dataset/hk-immd-set4-statistics-fdh.
  2. Data.worldbank.org. 2020. Hong Kong SAR, China | Data. https://data.worldbank.org/country/HK.
  3. Hung, J., 2020. Hong Kong Hurts Itself By Financially Excluding Foreign Domestic Workers. Thediplomat.com. https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/hong-kong-hurts-itself-by-financially-excluding-foreign-domestic-workers/.
  4. Siu, P., 2020. Hong Kong Will Need ‘600,000 Domestic Helpers In Next 30 Years’. South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/community/article/2118462/hong-kong-will-need-600000-domestic-helpers-next-30-years.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ladegaard, H. (2020). Language competence, identity construction and discursive boundary-making: Distancing and alignment in domestic migrant worker narratives. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2020(262), pp.97-122.
  7. Ortuzar, J. (2020). Foreign Maids and Beauty Queens. Performance Research, 25(1), 81-87. https://doi.org/10.1080/13528165.2020.1738116.
  8. Asato, W. (2004). Negotiating Spaces in the Labor Market: Foreign and Local Domestic Workers in Hong Kong. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 13(2), pp.255-274.