Foreign maids have won a HK$180 pay rise to HK$3,920 a month with new contracts from today. The 4.8 percent increase is their biggest in years.
The cash allowance for food will also be increased by HK$100, or 12.9 percent, to HK$875 a month if an employer does not provide food for the helper.
The government raised the foreign helpers' minimum allowable wage in June last year by 4.5 percent, from HK$3,580 in 2008 to HK$3,740. With the latest pay rise, the accumulated increase over the past four years has been 9.5 percent.
But bosses of helpers are complaining that they face hardship from the pay rise as it comes alongside an increased cost of living.
But domestic helpers' unions say the increase still falls short of their demand.
Contracts signed yesterday or earlier - with the wage at HK$3,740 and food allowance of not less than HK$775 per month - will still be processed, provided the applications reach the Immigration Department by October 17.
Figures from last month show there are 309,896 helpers in the city.
Fish Ip Pui-yu, organizing secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions - which helps the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers' Unions - welcomed the increase in pay, but added it will campaign for a monthly wage of at least HK$4,000.
She described the pay increase as moderate, noting that everything is getting more expensive.
Joseph Law Kwan-din, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, said employers wanted only a 3 percent pay rise.
"Inflation only affects domestic workers on the five days when they are on leave every month," Law said.
"The pay rise should not be in line with inflation.
"Employers have great pressure as they have to face inflation and pay for the accommodation, food and electricity of the maids."
Domestic helper Vister said they deserved a bigger increase this time as their salaries were cut previously.
Laura Lau, who has two maids, fears the increase will lead one of her helpers to leave her family to look for a new boss.
"It is not easy to hire a maid now as they have more markets, like Canada," she said.
"I am sympathetic to good domestic helpers as they contribute a lot and deserve better pay. But who gives us sympathy? Many of us really don't have better pay."
Crystal Ko Mei-fun said the pay increases were too much and too frequent. "It is not reasonable as many people do not have such a pay rise in the city," Ko said.
"If there are further pay rises for domestic helpers, it may force me to consider whether I should hire a maid in the future."