The Vital Role of Foreign Domestic Helpers in Global Economies

Domestic helpers have been an essential part of families in many countries around the world. These individuals work in households to help with daily tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and childcare. However, the demand for domestic helpers has become even more apparent in recent years, with the prevalence of two-income households, longer working hours, and a shortage of care services for the elderly. Foreign domestic helpers (FDH) are often sought after to fulfill this demand, especially in countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. In this article, we will take a closer look at the world of Foreign domestic helper (外傭), examining their role, working conditions, rights and benefits, and more.

Foreign domestic helpers often come from poor countries, with the hopes of earning a higher wage to support themselves and their families back home. As a result, the FDH industry has become a lucrative business, with intermediaries charging exorbitant fees to place helpers with families abroad. In some cases, these fees can amount to a year’s worth of a helper’s salary. Moreover, many helpers are not equipped with the necessary skills or training to handle the job effectively, making the process a difficult one for both parties. To address these issues, governments have introduced policies and regulations to safeguard the rights and benefits of FDHs.

The working conditions of foreign domestic helpers can be challenging, with many working long hours and often without any rest days. In Hong Kong, for example, FDHs work an average of 11 hours a day, with only one rest day a week. They are also required to live with their employers, which can be an isolating and stressful experience. There have been reports of FDHs being subjected to physical or verbal abuse by their employers, though incidents like these are not commonplace.

While FDHs may be vulnerable to economic exploitation and unfavorable working conditions, they are entitled to certain legal protections. In Hong Kong, the Employment Ordinance stipulates that employers must provide FDHs with food, lodging, medical treatment, and insurance coverage. Employers must also pay helpers a minimum wage, which is reviewed annually. Additionally, FDHs are entitled to a 24-hour rest period every week, statutory holidays, severance pay, and long-service pay after five years of continuous service.

FDHs’ contribution to the economy of the host country is significant, with estimates suggesting that they contribute billions of dollars per year in remittances back to their home countries. In Hong Kong, the government has recognized this by granting FDHs the right to abode after seven years of continuous residence and employment. This policy has been challenged, however, with some Hong Kong residents arguing that granting FDHs the right of abode will lead to an influx of unskilled workers and exacerbate housing shortages.


Foreign domestic helpers are a vital part of many households around the world. While their working conditions and rights have been the subject of much debate, governments have taken strides to ensure that they are protected under the law. The FDH industry is not without its challenges, but with the proper regulation and support, it can be a beneficial arrangement for both employers and helpers. As individuals, it is important to recognize the value of FDHs in our communities and to treat them with respect and dignity.