LUÜNA x Helpers Choice: Research on period poverty for migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, 27 May 2024 – In the light of Menstrual Health Day (May 28), a new survey led by HelperChoice, a domestic workers ethical employment agency and LUÜNA, a B Corp-certified social enterprise enhancing access to healthy and sustainable period products, sheds light on the menstrual health challenges faced by domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Conducted with 148 respondents, the survey highlights the financial burden, access issues, and impact on work performance associated with menstrual care.

HelperChoice x LUUNA - Menstrual Hygiene Day Survey Result

A Financial Burden

While other health and hygiene products are typically provided by employers, menstrual health remains a financial burden for domestic helpers due to its personal nature. In practice, 93% of employers do not supply period products, leaving the cost entirely on the helpers.

Cost-wise, the majority of respondents (84%) spend less than HK$101 per month on menstrual products, with 14% spending between HK$101 and HK$200. Despite this, 28% of respondents still find the cost of menstrual products to be a financial burden.

With the minimum monthly salary for domestic helpers set at HK$4,870, even the lower end of the spending spectrum (HK$101 per month) constitutes approximately 2.1% of their monthly income. This additional cost, unique to women, underscores a significant gender-based disparity, as the vast majority of domestic helpers in the city are women.

Access and Availability

When asked, "Have you ever been in a situation without a period product when you need one?", a significant 57% of respondents reported experiencing such situations. This lack of availability often forces many to resort to using makeshift alternatives, such as toilet paper, a practice reported by 44% of the respondents. 

The inability to access proper menstrual products not only poses a health risk but also highlights the broader issue of menstrual inequity. Ensuring consistent and reliable access to menstrual products is essential to safeguarding the health and dignity of these workers.

HelperChoice x LUUNA - Menstrual Hygiene Day Survey Result

Impact on Work and Employer Support

Menstrual health significantly impacts the work performance of domestic helpers. A considerable 79% of respondents suffer from period pain, yet only 5% seek medical help.

Instead, many manage their pain with home remedies: 51% drink hot water, 37% rest, and 36% take painkillers.

HelperChoice x LUUNA - Menstrual Hygiene Day Survey Result

These methods, while somewhat effective, do not fully alleviate the discomfort, affecting work performance for 75% of the respondents. Specifically, 73% report that their work is slightly affected but manageable, while 2% are unable to perform work due to severe pain.

Despite these challenges, 79% of domestic helpers do not communicate their menstrual pain to their employers, and 80% of employers do not reduce work tasks during menstruation. 

On this Menstrual Health Day, we encourage employers to communicate about the menstrual health needs of their domestic helpers and to offer essential support in adjusting work arrangements during this time of the month. Additionally, we hope employers can consider providing menstrual health products, thereby alleviating the financial burden associated with purchasing these items.

We also encourage domestic helpers to initiate open communication with their employers regarding any high levels of pain experienced during menstruation. They should feel empowered to request suitable work arrangements during this period and seek medical consultation for severe pain, as it could be indicative of underlying health issues.

Mahee Leclerc, General Manager of HelperChoice says: “Addressing these is not only a matter of health but also of dignity and respect, ensuring that all individuals are supported in maintaining their well-being and professional responsibilities. Not only for domestic workers, but for all women and people experiencing menstrual cycles in Hong Kong”.

Olivia Cotes-James, Founder and CEO of LUÜNA says: “LUÜNA’s mission is to improve access to healthy, eco-friendly period products that promote menstrual wellbeing and reduce environmental harm caused by traditional plastic-heavy products. Through regular product distributions and educational workshops we aim to promote menstrual equity within Hong Kong’s most vulnerable and undersupported communities, and through advance gender equity within Hong Kong.

About HelperChoice

HelperChoice is an ethical recruitment agency in Hong Kong connecting domestic helpers and employers. HelperChoice was set up as a social enterprise, and its impact was recognised by many organisations, including the International Labour Organisation.