What is your child care plan?

What is your childcare plan?

  • Me, or another family member, unpaid, fulltime

    Votes: 7 25.9%
  • A combination of me/SO and a paid employee part-time

    Votes: 5 18.5%
  • I will employ someone for fulltime childcare

    Votes: 11 40.7%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 4 14.8%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .


Registered User
Hey everyone, I am curious about your child care plans here in HK. I had always assumed that I would return to work part-time and rely on childcare co-op systems, but here it seems like people are uninterested in the co-op system (I look after your kid and mine for two hours, then give them both to you for two hours, that sort of thing - trading childcare hours) so I'm wondering what the most popular systems are.

Thanks for your input! I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.
those are VERY unpopular as are daycares.

the most practical way most people here cope with childcare is (a) a family member ~usually only available to locals or (b) a full-time live-in helper.

thre are not many other options here, i'm afraid. domestic helpers here are very affordable, except to have one LEGALLY, they MUST be live-in.
I would love a co-op childcare agreement with friends, but don`t really have a group with similar aged babies who live around me.
I find HK very strange in terms of childcare options, in that there really aren`t any. It`s pretty much nanny or nothing(for those without family here), or sending your kid to preschool at a very young age.
Despite legalities, from what I have seen of people`s helper arrangements here, the options are wide, as long as they are agreed upon by the 2 parties.
so long as you are willing to risk your "life" here, then you can do anything you like.

however, if you do not wish to be deported, have the ability to hire a helper in the future or be fined large amounts of $$$... not to mention the consequences to the helper in question, then go ahead and hire an illegal helper.

to me, that is just not an option. i MUST work. which means i MUST have a legal helper. if the possibility of hiring a helper were taken away from me, i wouldn't be able to work and hubby and i couldn't afford to live in hk.
when things are going well, you will be fine with "illegal help" it is when things turn sour that the troubles will hit you. my friend terminated her "legal" helper before probation was up, and she claimed she had evidence that MY helper was working part time at my friends place...which of course was not true - she just brought my daughter to my friends place every day for play groups...anyhow, my helper ended up getting alot of SMS from this disgruntled helper threathening to call immigration on her to report her and get her sent back to the Phillippines...at the end we had to talk and tell her that the proof she claimed she had was not sufficient (since we checked with immigration - she had a hand written timetable of when my helper went to my friends place) and only then did she finally stop...also, we changed the phone number for my helper....so, it can be a mess!
so long as you are willing to risk your "life" here, then you can do anything you like.

however, if you do not wish to be deported, have the ability to hire a helper in the future or be fined large amounts of $$$... not to mention the consequences to the helper in question, then go ahead and hire an illegal helper.

Wow, so amazing that I have seen more people `risk their lives` in HK than not. To each their own, eh.
Not exactly a police state, despite the Pearl tv commercials make it seem, though LeslieFu sounds more accurate in how things can easily turn sour. Always nice to do things the square route to protect yourself as it`s hard to know or trust others easily.
i don't mean your physical life, i mean your livliehood (did i spell that right?)

that's why i had "life" in quotation marks.

sorry for the misunderstanding.

(my "life" would be VERY difficult if not impossible in hk without our helper. as i said, we need both incomes to survive here. hubby and i are both self-employed and no income is guaranteed for us.)
Given the legal system here - I think it would be more likely that it would be the helper that would get jail time/deported and the employer would get a big fine and be blacklisted by immigration. Having said all of this, I think there are many many people who (a) hire a part-timer for a few hours a week for cleaning (b) (illegally) share a full time helper between two households or (c) pay $6K odd a month to pay for a live out helper living in a boarding house. It is illegal though as Cara says but these people (of which I understand there are many) are obviously taking the risk.

In terms of me, I selected "other" in your poll as I work part time (3 days) and have a full time live in helper. When I am home, we largely do all the childcare (between myself and my husband who has flexible working hours) and when I am at work it is my husband (if he is home) or my helper or a combination of the two. I love having a helper as had to be back at work in 12 weeks (2 weeks more maternity leave than I was legally entitled to in HK) and leaving my baby with someone I knew made much more sense to me than leaving my baby in a creche/day-care which would be the norm in my home country. Having said that, at home, I would not be going back when the baby was still so little - a year off is normal maternity leave there. I have the freedom to go to the gym when I am not working and know my helper can take care of my son. It is nice to have some free time to myself (although in typical Mummy fashion - I feel guilty about it and time it in with his sleeps!).

So, although I agree that the options are limited in HK for childcare, a full time helper really works for us. My sister is very jealous that we have a babysitter on site if we want to go out for a date night who not only knows him so well (and I hope) cares for him so much but also I trust to be able to stick to his routines and deal with problems if we are out. I am in the same boat as Cara - we are in HK for a reason and if we both were not able to work then financially it would not make sense for us to stay in HK.

As for child care co-ops - never heard of them unless maybe between family members (sisters as an example). That is certainly not popular at home.

There are other options for childcare.

There are actually daycares set up in Hong Kong where older local women watch children in their homes while the parents are away. These daycares are certified by the government.

You can also hire legal outside help for part-time work. When my son was about 2-months-old we needed to hire someone to come in during the days to help with my son because I was having health problems.

So, we hired a local Chinese lady through a church charity that trains displaced homemakers to be nannies and maids. She came to our house for a set time during the week.

So, if you wish to work part-time, this may be the perfect way to hire someone--you can have them come on the days and hours that you need them and avoid some of the hassles that go along with live-in help.

The going rate for this type of local worker is at least $50 HKD/hour which is more expensive by far than hiring a live-in helper, but it may suit you better. In fact, I really enjoyed the local lady we hired and learned so much from her about the practicalities of parenting--I wish it had been feasible for her to work for us full-time.

But, it's true that doing co-op childcare is probably a pretty hard sell in Hong Kong. There really isn't a demand for it because people who work outside the home usually opt for a live-in helper or as SZJ said, they send their children to full-day nursery school earlier. Or, they take advantage of other programs set up for childcare. I could see a place for co-op childcare when it comes to short-term babysitting (a night a week etc.) when a family doesn't have any family living here and they don't have a live-in helper.

There are lots and lots and lots of people hiring illegal help in Hong Kong--I would think that the majority of them are actually local people who have their helpers working in their restaurant or shop (lots of examples of that going on out where we live). I guess the risks aren't high enough for the local people to stop doing it but I don't know what the risks are for foreigners and if they're that much higher. I think where you get into real trouble is when the illegal help doesn't have residency--as in they are illegal immigrants.

Personally, this is how our childcare has worked in the past and how it works now.

My husband is local Chinese so when our son was little and when I went back to work, we relied a lot upon them--which they quite enjoy doing, actually. For the first year of my son's life, I would say I did 85-90% of the childcare as a stay-at-home mom and my parents-in-law picked up the other 10-15%.

When I returned to work this past year, for the first part of the year, my parents-in-law were then picking up the childcare duties about 65-70% of the time and the other 30-35% of the time the responsibility again fell to me because I was only working part-time.

In May of this year, my mother came over and spent a total of nine months with us as part of a sabbatical she was on. At that time, the responsibility for childcare shifted to her 65-70% of the time and then on me the rest 30-35% of the time I wasn't working.

In September we hired a live-in domestic helper from the Philippines as my mother was going to return to the States and it had become physically taxing for my petite mother-in-law to handle my tall and strong son so many hours a day. So, in the three months of transition time, I'd say that the helper had full responsibility for my son's care maybe 20-25% of the time, my mother 45-50% of the time and the remainder again fell on me.

Now that my mother is gone, the helper picks up the 65-70% of the time for caring for my son, however she splits this with the Chinese parents-in-law who probably spend 25-30% of the time during the week with my son. And then my husband and I take care of him the remainder of the time.
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PT Helpers and co-ops

wow, it's scary to hear about what happens if you try for part time helpers. I've heard that there are locals who can be hired legally -- has anyone had any experience with that? I am curious about why it's not more popular.

I am especially curious about the unpopularity of a childcare co-op. I might guess it's that HK tends to be a very affluent society. My spouse and I are not in the banker/lawyer/doctor income category and so we have always thought of ourselves as people who would trade babysitting or send our kids to a "sitter" (ie. local SAHM) if we both had to work. I would guess, and I'm trying very hard to make it clear that I'm NOT judging, but I would guess that a lot of expats in HK had not always had this expectation and are therefore not as surprised as we are that it's unavailable!

We might still try to make a go of it if we can find other families with at least one spouse only working part-time, who are willing to share childcare, but it might be quite stressful (especially with scheduling!) and I can see why many people simply hire someone.

Further thoughts or advice?
Thanka2, I think we were posting at exactly the same time -- thanks for the great detailed response -- can you please post the name/contact info of the charity? Thanks! :)
I actually think the childcare options we do have here, while limited in their scope, are superior to the UK or NZ. 'In home' care is so much more affordable.

There are many studies out there that confirm instutionalised care for the under 3s (daycare, creches etc.) is not desirable - yet it is the norm because of cost. I haven't heard much about co-ops, just registered child-minders where someone looks after a group of children in their own home.

Ultimately, someone your child can truly bond with and can be cared for by in the home (after parents and family members which would of course be the first choice) is the ideal.

Even if I only worked part time (I work full time) I would still have a full time FDH as the freedom it allows me is amazing and I have someone who knows my kids schedules intimately (and who truly cares for them).

The illegal use of FDH's for part time work is so widespread, even if you tried to start a co-op I'm not sure how many takers you would get. Simillar to the scenario with 'live out' helpers, people weigh up the risks and make their decision accordingly.

Lesliefu raises a really good point though, you can't necessarily control who knows about your situation and how they could use it against you. It would a disaster to be blacklisted by immigration. Good incentive to be nice to your neighbours!
Like Starbucks2 I work part time and my husband has somewhat flexible work hours - starts work in the pm so he's home all morning with the kids. My mum lives in HK (neither me or my husband are local chinese) but I grew up here. When my son was around 9 months old I started work on a freelance basis at home but had to strictly regulate this around his naptimes and more often than not meant that I was up until 2am. Then when I had just fallen pregnant with my daughter when my son was around 15 months old I was working part time - a lot of it from home but as the project I was involved in grew so did my in-office time. We live in the boonies out in the NTs because frankly we like grass and are happy to escape at least for the mean time typical HK rental prices. So what this meant was every other day I'd be shipping my son out from Yuen Long to Hung Hom (where my mum lives) - this was before the new train line which now makes it a direct route; drop him off at hers, shlep my way to Central do my 3-4 hours, go back to Hung Hom, take him home and then end up working into the night because just because I had a meeting during the day it didnt mean I didnt have work to do when I got back home.

Add pregnancy to the mix and I had to stop and realize it was all just too much. Even on days when my mum would travel out to babysit it didn't make sense - I have a younger sister of school age and she was starting to get neglected because of my kids and it was becoming too much of a weight on my conscience.

Getting a helper was the right solution for us. It's given me and my husband A LOT of breathing room as parents and as a couple. I enjoy cooking more, I bake more with my son, and when I work from home its productive, I get a lot done and I get to go downstairs and enjoy my kids company without feeling like I'm being pulled in all directions. I stopped feeling as resentful of my wonderful husband who is a very hands on father as it is - but it was only natural as I had the house, the kids and a part time job to think of, juggling babysitting and trying to find more hours in the day.

Having a helper for me means that I also get to spend quality time with my kids individually. My toddler doesn't have to come along to my little one's jabs, my postnatals, etc. I'm really enjoying work now as well. I've always been the type of mum that loves her kids but gets itchy fingers. I love working and when I go to work I know that my daughter is getting her expressed milk on time and my son gets meals on time as I dont have to rush him back from my mums and THEN cook dinner or resort to a 7-11 sandwich.

Mind you, for us it is a significant loss in income - we're a young couple trying to save as much as we can as the kids popped out a lot earlier than expected but for us, having a helper is worth it.

I have less working mums guilt now ironically even though I'm pulling in more hours. My son responds to me better (daughter too young to tell) because of the quality of time we get to spend with each other, and I am at peace that my son isn't getting juggled between mine and my mum's place and he's getting the stability he deserves.

My 2 cents has once again run far too many paragraphs long. Good Luck whatever you choose!
the minimum wage for a full-time, live-in helper is $3580/month. if you do not provide food for hte helper, the minimum food allowance is $740/month.

in addition, you must pay for your helper's flights to/from their "home". that is, one way to hk and one way back to "home.

you must also pay for insurance. this amounts to a few hundred $/year.

i would say that the total cost of our helper is about $4500/month. (we don't pay her minimum wage and she eats our food.)

because of this low-cost (relatively, when you compare to the cost of day care in other countries), there is not much demand for other options.

in addition to childcare, our helper does our laundry, cooks & cleans. she is a fantastic cook and makes our lives SOOOOOO much easier. because of her, the time i get to spend with my kids is real quality time. i don't have to worry about what is for dinner (usually) as she decides and takes care of it all.

we are actually waiting for the approval from immigration for the application for her husband to join us, too!
Thanka, do you still have the information for the local hired help? We are looking for someone to come in and babysit/teach our child basic Cantonese or Mandarin... one of his schoolmates (who is not local) found this the best way to learn Chinese. BTW, $50/hour is cheaper than an illegal domestic helper!

We live in a predominantly Chinese community and I can see that he's getting quite frustrated about not being to communicate. He cockles (seriously like a rooster) to the kids! He tells me that he is speaking Chinese.
Hi Spockey, I think the $50 HKD/hour rate really only applies if you book the person for a certain number of hours a week and it may vary by where in HK you're looking--you do have to make it worth their while. So, if she comes for half-day (4 hours) 2-3 times/week then you could probably do the $50 HKD/hour thing. The price we negotiated with the lady who helped us was negotiated between us--the agency is only responsible to train and recommend help--they don't deal with the financial side of things. My Mandarin improved A LOT when the local lady was here with us (she is actually from Mainland China but married to a local man and a permanent resident here). I will look for the information again. The last time I saw the numbers and names for the agency was back 2 years ago!
Thanks Thanka. That would be ideal for us... a Mainlander who lives here.
I'm going to try and put an ad up at the local job network too.
This is such a difficult decision to make because, ultimately, it's about what is best for our kids (or kids-to-be!) and that has to include what is best for our own sanity. I am hoping to find one or two other like-minded parents in my neighbourhood to share some childcare, and also really hoping that the part-time-but-legal situation works out. I know it's so, so common to hire through the illegal way, but for some reason it still sketches me out.

I wonder if this is the organization Thanka2 worked with:
Our Services > Co-operation with the Employees Retraining Board - Domestic Helper Retraining Course