Singapore vs. Hong Kong

On trafficking, the U.S. State Department ranks Singapore among the best and Hong Kong among the worst.

We don’t see why. It profits a man nothing even for the whole world…. but for Singapore!

Domestic Worker Protections

Singapore

Hong Kong

Winner

Minimum Wage

No

Yes

High Average Wage (US$ equivalent)

$450

$625

Weekly Holiday

Maybe

Yes

Holidays Off (Xmas, National Day etc)

0

13

Salary Deductions Prohibited

No

Yes

In-Country Agency Fees Prohibited

No

Yes

Security Deposit Leads to Worker Restrictions

Yes

No

Maternity Protections

None

Many

Deportation for Pregnancy

Yes

No

Employer Permission Needed to Change Jobs

Yes

No

Workers Protected by Local Labor Law

No

Yes

Minimum Wage: Singapore doesn’t have a minimum wage for domestic workers. Hong Kong does, and it’s generally respected. 

High Average Wage: The average wage in Singapore is $S600 or about US$450. The minimum wage in Hong Kong is HK$4,8710 per month or about US$625 so about 40% higher than in Singapore. 

Weekly day off: In Singapore, is it common for domestic workers to enter into a “voluntary” agreement to work for additional pay on their weekly “day off.” The result is that many go for months or years with few, if any, days off. Since January 2023, they are guaranteed one day per month that can’t be purchased away. In Hong Kong, all workers get a weekly day off, and this is largely respected, albeit they are frequently required to make breakfast and to adhere to an 8pm ‘curfew’.

Statutory Holidays: In Hong Kong, domestic workers are entitled to 13 paid statutory holidays, such as Christmas, January 1, Lunar New Year, May 1, National Day etc. These are mandatory and can’t be purchased away. In Singapore, domestic workers are not entitled to any statutory or public holidays at all.

Employer Salary deduction: In Singapore, employers often take deductions from a worker’s salary to repay themselves for advancing her placement fee to the agency. In Hong Kong, such a deduction would be an offense. Employers would want to clearly show they had paid the legal wage in full and would be reluctant to get involved in the workers’ debts. 

Security Bond: In Singapore employers must put up a US$3,750 security bond and risk losing it if, for example, they fail to promptly report a worker pregnancy or if their worker “goes missing.” This is a common excuse for never letting the worker leave the home, and it creates a pretext for slave-like treatment. In Hong Kong, no such bond exists, and the employer has no responsibility for the worker’s personal life. 

Maternity protections:  In Singapore, the worker is not allowed to become pregnant by law, and if she does, then she is immediately deported. In Hong Kong, domestic workers get the same full maternity protections that all other working women get. They cannot be fired for being pregnant, they get maternity leave, and all prenatal and delivery care is covered. The child’s immigration status follows the mother such that if she remains continuously employed as a domestic worker, the child can remain in Hong Kong and after 7 years become a permanent resident (essentially, a citizen). Few employers would tolerate this but as a matter of law it is allowed and it does happen occasionally.

Employer permission to switch jobs: In general, domestic workers are not allowed to switch employers before the end of their 2-year contract without returning to their home country, and even then it’s discouraged. In Singapore, a worker can only do so with written approval from her employer. This further empowers the employer and nudges the relationship toward master/slave. Both countries explicitly try to limit the worker’s ability to change jobs. As a practical matter, in some rare cases Singapore’s policy might be to the worker’s benefit.

Domestic Workers Justice Initiative

Domestic Workers Justice Initiative: Working with institutional investors to keep their supply chains trafficking free.

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