Food Allowance Increased from $300 to $740 per month

From some good news for helpers:

"Domestic helpers have something to smile about after 26 years - their food allowance will more than double for new employment contracts signed from today.

But their salary will not be increased.

The food allowance will jump from a minimum of HK$300 per month to HK$740. The allowance will be paid by employers who do not provide their helpers with meals.

The increase is the first since 1983.

But the "minimum allowable wage" remains frozen at HK$3,580 a month. Most employers pay the minimum, but there are reports that some maids, especially Indonesians, are underpaid.

"We welcome the increase in the food allowance because it is long overdue," said Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body. "But it is still not enough. The minimum wage freeze is actually a denial of the wage increase that we have been clamoring for since our pay was cut in 2003."

Union leaders said foreign helpers took a pay cut of HK$400 in 2003 after the SARS crisis devastated the economy.

The government said yesterday that the helpers' salary was set after a review that took into account "Hong Kong's general economic and employment situation."

This was "reflected through a basket of economic indicators, including the relevant income movement, price change and labor market situation," it said.

The government said it made the decision to raise the allowance after considering consumer price indexes changes.

But the administration believes most employers will not be affected because they provide their maids with food.

The minimum monthly food allowance was set at HK$100 in 1973, doubling to HK$200 in 1978 before rising to HK$300 in 1983.

The minimum wage was last raised in July last year by HK$100 to HK$3,580."