‘Demand for helpers reflects childcare needs’

A Baptist University researcher said on Monday a survey he led showed lower-income families are increasingly turning to foreign domestic helpers, reflecting the lack of childcare support in the city.

According to Adam Cheung, an assistant professor of sociology at the university, many less well-off families with children said they would, if given the option, prefer having childcare services to hiring a helper.

The survey interviewed around 500 couples between 2018 and 2020 who employed or had hired helpers.

Cheung said about a quarter of them were from less well-off backgrounds, according to their standing in the socioeconomic status index. Some of them, he said, lived in a 300-square-foot flat with just two bedrooms, and the helpers did not have their own rooms.

“Most of them are driven by the demand [to hire helpers]. They have a very high parenting expectation, they have a very high work demand, so that they have very intense work-family conflicts to solve,” he said.

He also said hiring helpers enabled couples to spend more time on parenting and less time on household chores, adding that families with helpers tend to have more children.

The academic said overall speaking, more households in Hong Kong are employing domestic helpers over the past four decades. In 1980s, only 8 percent of couples had a helper within the first 10 years of their marriage, but the figure surged to 30 percent in 2010s.