Know Your Diaspora: Hong Kong

Filipinos in Statue Square
(Photo: Mcyjerry)

There are 153,060 Filipinos working and living in Hong Kong. Most are women who work as domestic helpers known as amahs, or more often as feiyungs and bun muis or bun buns (slang). Filipinos also work as singers and musicians in bars and hotels. Many work in the recently opened Hong Kong Disneyland. Domestic workers often face the risk of labor, physical or sexual abuse by employers, and a number of migrant organizations have sprung up in their defense and to provide assistance.

A Hong Kong work visa requires some amount of higher education. Filipino women with college degrees and perfect command of English often are willing to work as maids and nannies for the higher pay in Hong Kong compared with the Philippines.

In 2011 Hong Kong’s High Court ruled that immigration laws barring domestic workers—mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia—from applying for permanent residency violated Hong Kong's mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law. The ruling was prompted by a lawsuit brought by Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino domestic helper who has lived in Hong Kong since 1986.

Under Hong Kong law, foreigners can apply to settle in the city after seven years of uninterrupted residency, but maids were specifically excluded. In March 2012, however, the Hong Kong government won an appeal against the court ruling. 

Social Life

On Sundays and public holidays, thousands congregate in Central, Victoria Park and around Hong Kong Cultural Centre to socialize or earn extra income by peddling foodstuff and other goods to compatriots. The "No littering" signs in the vicinity are written in three languages--Chinese, English and Tagalog—as this weekly gathering has become a long-standing practice.

Filipinos at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Shui (Photo by K.C. Tang)

Although domestic workers are the largest Filipino group, there are also many Filipino professionals in accounting, law and finance. Some are architects, civil engineers, and tech professionals working on some of the most prominent construction projects. Some Filipinos have married expatriates, mostly from Western countries, and have settled down in Hong Kong. The first Filipinos to work as professionals were those who arrived during the post-World War II years, following the Communist takeover in the mainland in 1949. 

People of Chinese descent comprise the vast majority of Hong Kong's population of approximately 7.07 million in 2011, or 94 percent. Foreign nationals account for 6 percent. The other significant national groups are Indonesians (164,260) and U.S. citizens (29,080).

Chinese and English are the official languages of Hong Kong. English is widely used in the Government and by the legal, professional and business sectors. Trilingual professionals who speak English (4 percent), Cantonese (86 percent) and Putonghua (1.4 percent) play a vital role in the numerous enterprises trading in Hong Kong or doing business with mainland China and Taiwan. Most Filipinos communicate with the local population in English. Few are fluent in Cantonese, although most have picked up phrases. 

Filipinos in Hong Kong are largely Christian, mostly Roman Catholic. A minority are Muslim. Many Catholic parishes offer religious services in Tagalog or English as Filipinos make up a large part of the Roman Catholic Diocese’s congregations.

The “No littering” signs in the vicinity are written in three languages–Chinese, English and Tagalog.


Hong Kong covers Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, including 262 outlying islands.  Between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula lies the deep-water Victoria Harbour, one of the most renowned in the world.

Following British rule from 1842 to 1997, China took over Hong Kong as “Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.” Hong Kong’s constitutional document, the Basic Law, ensures that its current political system will remain in effect for 50 years. The rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong are based on the impartial rule of law and an independent judiciary. Hong Kong is governed by a chief executive, an executive council, a 60-seat legislative council and a court system.


Hong Kong's economy, the world's 10th largest trading economy, is based on free trade and service and features low taxation and minimum state control. Its most important trading partner is the People’s Republic of China, but it has strong ties with the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. It has a labor force of 3.74 million. The per capita income in 2011 was HK$266,026. The workweek is Monday to Saturday. There are 17 general holidays, which include 12 statutory holidays (including Sundays) that employers are required to observe.



Hon. (Mr.) Noel Eugene Eusebio M. Servigon, Consul General

14th Floor, United Centre, 95 Queensway
Admiralty, Hong Kong SAR

Tel. No. (+852) 2823-8501
Fax No. (+852) 2866-9885 / 2866-8559
Hotline: 915-54023 (Consular), 680-8323 (Labor), 634-59324 (OWWA)

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