How Much to Pay Domestic Helpers?

We have a full-time domestic helper, who cleans, cooks, launders, and minds our three small children (all under 6). Given the three small children, this may sound like an exceptionally difficult job, but, my wife stays at home, and does the majority of the direct child-care, but our helper certainly does a lot of it too.

We live in Discovery Bay. We pay her HK$3800 per month. She gets off Sundays and public holidays, and occasional evenings. I sense this pay might be a tad low (although higher than the minimum wage), but would be interested in the feedback of others. Perhaps we should up our pay for 2005? If we left the pay at 3800, I don't think she would leave us, but I think it'd be good for her morale if we upped it to the low 4000s -- either effective January 1, or April 1.

She currently gets some other minor perks: Year-long Golden Pass to Ocean Park (of course, that's in part so she can brings our kids there), HK$1900 at Xmas, and some other minor gifts. We don't give her any medical or dental benefits. She has a tiny, but I think comfortable, room of her own with a tiny but comfortable bed. She can eat our food as she pleases, and she will occasionally have other Filipinas over to her room to visit.

All in all, I think she likes her job now. We like the job she is doing. I think she thinks the pay is a bit low, but also thinks that we treat her well and seems to like us. She had another employer before that made her absolutely miserable.

Any and all thoughts/feedback on this would be appreciated.

Re:How Much to Pay Domestic Helpers?

I don't have much idea of what are the going rates for domestic helpers. But it sounds as though yours does a better than average job, and gets better than average pay and perks in return. It doesn't sound like she is planning to leave, so as an employer it doesn't seem like there's a strong reason to increase the wage.

If you want to boost morale by recognising good work, of course extra $$$ will always be welcome, especially it is made clear they are a result of whatever good performance it is you are encouraging. Or you might offer some other way to say thankyou - eg new decoration / furniture for her room. It is an extra benefit for working with you, and an extra reason not to move.


DH pay

Well, I had an eloquent and insightful reply just about all set to John's excellent question yesterday, but then suffered the computer crash inevitably brought on by hubris.

Anyway, I'll try again.

As you know from our articles, Mrs Tall and I do employ a domestic helper. I'd say she's probably got somewhat less on her hands than it sounds like yours might (Mrs Tall works, but Toddler Tall is at kindergarten in the mornings, and naps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon, and we take over with her completely in evenings and throughout weekends). But you're already more generous than we are in terms of pay and perks.

What you've set out is a classic dilemma, I think, for us westerners who employ DHs. Even when we seem to be doing pretty well by our helper by HK standards, we look at our relative wealth, and feel like we're not doing enough. Or is this not the case for you, i.e. you're really worried your helper is looking for a better deal? If that's the case, I don't know how much a few hundred dollars a month might make -- she might, as Mr B suggested, also be motivated by other factors such as simply finding an easier post.

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that it's almost impossible to give advice on this question, because it's often just as much about the employer as it is about the employment situation itself. If you want to pay her more, by all means do so, but you're certainly not underpaying her now. My guess is that she's already making more than the majority of DHs in HK (especially the many who are being paid *less* than the legal minimum by their unscrupulous employers).

Another thing to keep in mind is the nature of the relationship you have with her. If you want her to 'feel like part of the family', that can be great, and might encourage you to pay her more/give her more gifts/help her out with family emergencies, etc. Many people, especially westerners, it seems, do this. But there are potential problems here, too, as it can really complicate your working relationship with your helper, and may lead to an escalating series of stories about crises that require funding help.

As I mentioned in the first of my articles about DHs, it's easy to go to extremes as an employer (treating them as working machines or as saints). Both deny their humanity. Similarly, it's easy to attibute the worst possible motives to them when it comes to money and benefits (i.e. give them too much, and they'll get 'spoiled', a word you hear all the time when people discuss problems with helpers); or to assume the very best possible motives (i.e. my helper would never paint me a picture about her need/desire for more money because she just wouldn't, that's why!). Both are again neglecting the more obvious explanation, i.e. DHs do what they do not because they love the life, but for the money, and they're going to do what they can to maximize their returns. This is neither scandalous nor edifying, which makes it far less fun to talk about, but I think it's most often the case.

Anyway! Didn't mean to ramble on like this, and I'm certainly not assuming you're making any of these assumptions, but once you get me started on this topic, I do tend to go on.

Bottom line: I don't think you're underpaying her. Pay her more if you want to/you think you need to. Can't really say more than that.

Do other reader have more?

Good question

I've had a simular discussion with Mrs Clipperjay and if the wife goes to work we are going to have to get a partime house keeper. I think wages should be paid fairly, but at the going rate. I heard that this maid had been bragging about how much more she got paid to the other maids, and in the end she got it by the other maids. Apparently it's best to stick to what the average gets. It could cause a riot almonst there community and ours too???


Anyone had any experience with DH and theft, etc?

Re: DH

[quote="Mr. T"]Anyone had any experience with DH and theft, etc?[/quote][b]

Who has Thai Domestic Helper please share your experience.
I really want to hear from you.[/b]

Experiences FDH. Anyone w/Local part-time helper?

Never had a theft problem w/ our FDH

We've employed 2 different helpers, one for 3 contracts and the other has almost finished her second contract.

So far we've been pretty lucky. Howver, I think it's also that we were pretty clear on what type of women we wanted to employ.

1) Not a kid - we wanted a woman at least 30. I was afraid that if I employed a girl of 18 or 20, I would feel responsible to her parents to keep her safe and well in the Mean City. Also that a very young woman would likely be as.... sometimes lacking in judgement as I was when I was that age.

2) Since for us, for our first helper - the main job was caring for our baby (later babies) we wanted someone who had either her own kids (now grown to an age where I did not feel guilty that she had left them) or lots of experience.

3) Someone who had worked abroad before (in HK, S'pore, or Taiwan, preferably) so she would be experienced w/ homesickness etc.

4) Someone with at least a high school education - so we could communicate fairly well and she could read recipe books etc. & keep basic household accounts (so we could see how the housekeeping money is spent).

Different families have different needs. Our second helper was MUCH better at cleaning than the first, because by then baby-care was not an issue. Don't expect super woman.

Has anyone hired a local helper for part-time work? Any experiences to share?

the place where domestc helpers can stay at night

hello to everybody

i am celso from portugal
me and wife with 2 kids will go to live/work in hong kong so we will need a domestic helper
but we do not want she sleeps in the same flat otherwise i already know the flat is small and just have 2 rooms
how can we do ?
is it obligatory she sleeps in my flat ?
is it possible we rent a room in other flat? how much is it'
and what do they prefer?




Hi Celso;

Unfortunately for you, it's now illegal to hire a domestic helper who lives outside your home. It'd be taking a significant risk to try to get around this requirement. You might want to think about hiring part-time help.

Let us know if you've got other questions, and good luck with your move.

Mr Tall

Re:How Much to Pay Domestic Helpers?

thank you for your tips

is it possible to hire a domestic helper just for a couple of hours a day?



Part-time DH

thank you for your tips

is it possible to hire a domestic helper just for a couple of hours a day?



I'd think so. My aunt hires a DH for a couple hours every weekend to do heavy duty cleaning chores as she can't do them herself due to her disability.

Part-time domestic helper

MrsB says that several friends and colleagues have hired local domestic helpers, working 5-6 days a week, for varying hours. The lady that helps us works five days a week, 7:30 - 4:30, which works very well for us as we still get our privacy and time with ToddlerB on evenings & weekends.

Found this on the government's Manpower site - from 2002 so a bit dated:

[quote]ERB has recently conducted an opinion survey among employers of local domestic helpers. The result indicated that among the trainees who have secured employment as domestic helpers, 79% work 3 to 6 hours per day, 14% work less than 3 hours per day and 7% work 7 hours or more per day. Those who finish the training courses are generally paid $45 to $59 an hour, depending on job requirements, hours of work, working locations, etc. Regarding job duties, they are mainly employed to take charge of household cleaning (93%), followed by washing/ironing clothes (23%) and preparation of dinner (12%). Other duties include buying food, preparing lunch, baby-sitting, child and elderly care, etc.[/quote]


Local helper - follow-up question

Hi Mr. B,

How has your local helper's reliability been? I had a friend who had the same baby-sitter/cleaner for about 5 years. But my husband says his colleagues say when they've hired local helpers, there were problems w/ absenteeism, lateness, etc.

Did you or Mrs. B check your local helper's references before hiring? Did you hire from the Labour Department's website?

Re:How Much to Pay Domestic Helpers?

Sorry, we're not much help there - it's MrsB's sister-in-law that we've hired, so a lot of concerns about reliability etc didn't apply.

We get a few cultural disagreements now and then (eg "leng m' leng?" appears too much in her conversation with ToddlerB for my liking), but it's a minor point and overall we are very lucky.


We just arrived in Hong Kong

We just arrived in Hong Kong and want to get a helper. We like our privacy very much so we really would prefer someone who would live out. I have been browsing through so many sites about Domestic Helpers and still am confused.

I understand that it is illegal to have the helper live out if they are not from Hong Kong or have a depeendent visa. How do I go about at finding a local (trustworthy) helper or someone with a dependent visa. I would also hope that I could communicate with the person in English, Is it common to have someone working full time but living out?

I really appreciate any clarifications or recommendations. Thank you very much.SB

You could try the government

You could try the government site mentioned here.


Live-out helpers

Simonek, those are some very good questions. MrB's suggested site should help a lot in finding a live-out helper, and you might also check out your local supermarket's notice board. Note, however, that you will likely get nowhere unless you read Chinese, or bring along someone who does, as most ads for people who will do part-time cleaning/housework will be posted in Chinese only.

On a related note, keep in mind that most local Chinese part-time helpers are not likely to have a high standard of English, although this is not an insurmountable problem, of course.

Good luck, and let us know how you're doing as you get settled here in HK.

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your help Mr Tall and Mr B. That site was very helpful! Hopefully will be able to find someone soon :)

Thanks again

I have a friend who lives in

I have a friend who lives in the flat upstairs. He wants a maid to cook and clean but he is single and values his privacy when he has lady friends over. I'm old, retired widower, and don't care about the privacy part. The maid takes care of both our households, but she sleeps in my home. Minimum wage is approximately $500 USD per month but we pay her $700 USD per month since she is taking care of two households (and doing more work). That's only $350 USD per month. You might want to reach a similar agreement with a neighbor and your maid.


Our helper is on HK$4500 a month.  It's what she got from her previous employer who left the country (yes we did check ...) and she's more than worth it.  In fact we had the discussion the other day about perhaps needing to increase the amount.  I firmly belief in the adage if you pay peanuts you get monkeys ...  we interviewed a ton of people who were on a lower pay, but decided it wasn't something worth saving on.

we deliberately went for a more mature person who we felt we could trust to make the right decisions in an emergency.  She is not just a cleaner, I am leaving my 2 most precious possessions in her care at least some of the time.  I respect her disciplining my kids when necessary and always stick up for her when the kids do the "but she says, but mum says, but its not fair ..." (manipulative little critters that they are).

In return she is loyal and always has a smile on her face and brings joy into our home...

But I agree mutual respect is not just about money or how much you are willing or able to pay.  Each home has their budgetary constraints.  You need to do what you think is fair given your circumstances.

Long Service Payment for Domestic Helper

Anyone knows the details about this? I heard when the contact hits the 5th year, MPF kicks in too. How does it work? How to calculate?

An employer should pay long

An employer should pay long service payment to the helper if he/she has
worked continuously for not less than five years, and :
- is dismissed or the fixed term contract is not being renewed* by reason
other than serious misconduct or redundancy;
- is certified by a registered medical practitioner or registered Chinese
medicine practitioner as permanently unfit for the present job and he/she
- is aged 65 or above and he/she resigns; or
- dies in service.

The following formula applies to the calculation of both severance payment
and long service payment :
[(Monthly wages x 2/3) x reckonable years of service Note]
Note Service of incomplete year should be calculated on a pro rata basis.

Please check out the following link for more information:

Live out local helper

Dear Simonek
I just found your communications exchanged last year about local domestic helper and would like to know if you finally easily found a local DH speaking Chinese as this is what I am currently looking for and I am just starting the procedure filling the gov form.
Thanks a lot in advance for your advise.

Live out local helper / Mistake in previous message

Dear Simonek

Sorry, I wanted to say speaking ENGLISH and not Chinese.
Thanks a lot