By Gillian M. Cortez
FOREIGN domestic workers account for 3.6% of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product (GDP) yet still suffer from financial inclusion, according to a study conducted by a Hong Kong charity trying to quantify the economic contribution of household help and caregivers.
Hong Kong-based Enrich, in its “The Value of Care” report for 2019, said: “This report reveals that migrant domestic workers contribute significantly to economies both in their home countries and destination cities, but yet are financially excluded and return home financially worse off.”
Some 3.6% of Hong Kong GDP is generated by migrant domestic workers, with Enrich noting, “(T)he research shows that in 2018, migrant domestic workers (MDWs) contributed an estimated $12.6 billion (HK$98.9 billion) to Hong Kong’s economy, representing 3.6% of the GDP.”
Over half, or 55%, of domestic workers in Hong Kong are Filipinos, Enrich reported. In Hong Kong, some of MDWs 71% work in child care and 40% have responsibilities in elderly care. The Labor Department of Hong Kong projects that 460,000 MDWs will be needed by 2030, with 180,000 required for elderly care.
Enrich also said that Hong Kong projects demand for 600,000 MDWs by 2047.
Enrich said employing MDWs enable women in Hong Kong to have a greater presence in the labor force. Without MDWs, 49% of married Hong Kong mothers between the ages of 25 and 54 may find it difficult to join the work force.
“(I)f they do employ a MDW, the labour force participation increases to 78%. By enabling more women to join the labour force, MDWs indirectly add $2.6 billion (HK$20.1 billion) to Hong Kong’s economy, USD$2.6 billion (SG$3.5 billion) to Singapore’s economy and $0.23 billion (929 million ringgit) to Malaysia. This has an additional contribution to family well-being,” Enrich reported.
The study also underlined the economic impact of MDWs in Hong Kong, with 385,000 such workers generating an estimated HK$71.2 billion.
Despite the positive impact MDWs bring to the Hong Kong economy, Enrich said over 80% of MDWs are in debt, much of it incurred to leave their respective countries. Hong Kong MDWs take an average of 19 months to clear off their debt.
It said the indebtedness level of Hong Kong MDWs is the highest in the Asia-Pacific region, the study reported.
Enrich recommends “Improved educational opportunities and financial literacy training to ensure domestic workers are equipped with the knowledge to ensure their long-term financial security.”