Not yet full but still a success. Just a while ago, the Hong Kong government has announced the suspension of the HK$9,600 levy it collects from employers of foreign domestic workers. After two years, the decision shall again be reviewed.
Though it is not the same as abolition, the two-year suspension is still a cause for celebration.
In broad strokes, the levy was implemented in 2003 by the HK government supposedly to finance efforts to retrain local workers for domestic work to face the unemployment issue of HK that time.
The levy was introduced at the same time as the monthly salary of foreign maids was cut by HK$400. It doesn't take a mathematician to see that the total amount cut from the wage of FDWs for a two-year contract is exactly the same amount as the levy. Thus, it has always been the position of FDW groups that the levy is an indirect taxation to them.
For years, FDW groups have campaigned for its abolition. Rightly so for their experience has also shown that as long as the levy is in place, their wage is also held hostage. Despite HK's economic boom, FDWs have only received mere pittance for a wage hike.
Early last week, the monthly wage of FDWs was increased by HK$100. At first glance, it may look like another victory. But if one can see that it is actually only HK$4 per day or 25 cents per hour, one shall be bound to agree with FDWs who say that it is too little.
Besides, the cumulative wage hikes for the past four years are not even enough to recover the amount slashed in 2003 and 1999. FDW wage now stands at HK$3580 per month. Nine years ago, it was HK$3860.
Developments like these are what reaffirm my belief in the movement and the people's militant collective action. They are not merely slogans nor dreams nor merely a 13-year old agitation borne by the idealism and impetuousness of the youth.
They may be small in the larger scheme of things - given the whole gamut of other issues that migrant workers have to confront - but considering the situation, any victory, however small, is a step forward.
V may take long in coming. When it comes, it fuels the people for more.
Darn it. It seems like this government is still dilly-dallying as to the details of the suspension.
While it appears that the suspension is in the offing (by September), it is still isn't clear when in September, what to do about the unused HK$4.4 BILLION fund collected, and whether it will only apply to new contracts and to existing ones.
When it comes to cutting the wage, the HK government has a one-track mind. When it comes to giving relief to migrants ... mas makunat pa sa dilang makunat.
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