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Why do domestic workers shop so much if they have financial problems?

In Hong Kong, domestic workers typically earn much more than they might be earning in their home countries. This sudden influx of perceived wealth can create an unhealthy relationship with money if a person isn’t disciplined with their finances and educated in how to manage their spending. 

Most people do not get taught financial literacy in school and one of the first lessons we teach at our Money Wise Migrants workshop is how to distinguish between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’. Many domestic workers don’t realise that they can achieve a lot if they plan long-term and save in the right way. 

Very often, they face temptation from cheap products or attractive deals - a keen observer in Central or Victoria Park on a Sunday would spot carefully marketed products in stores or informal vendors circling to different groups selling clothes, bags, jewelry, cosmetics and so on. At HK$20 here or HK$50 there, it becomes easy to overspend without realising it. 

Also, once they are in Hong Kong, domestic workers are considered to be comparatively wealthy by their families for whom the salary seems like a lot of money - this places added pressure on domestic workers, especially if they are the sole breadwinner. They are often unable to tell their families of the realities of their situation here, or they struggle with guilt from leaving their children. Therefore if the family requests gifts, it can be very hard for a domestic worker to say ‘no’ - another challenge we specifically tackle in our workshop Money and Family. Curbing your spending is hard for anybody but these skills can be learned.