That finding came in a poll of 2,003 Hong Kong couples aged between 18 and 55 from 2018 to last year. Of the respondents, 18.5 percent currently hired foreign helpers and another 25.7 percent had helpers in the past.

Comparing married couples with at least one child who employed helpers to those who didn't, working fathers and mothers with maids could enjoy an average of 3.6 hours and 6.5 hours more free time per week, respectively, as they are spared from doing chores.

That allowed fathers and mothers to spare an average of 2.9 hours and 3.4 hours more per week, respectively, on childcare, even though they had to spend up to 3.7 hours every week to manage their helpers.

The poll results also suggested that families having a foreign helper are 13 percent more likely to have a second child.

For couples married after 2000 who have one child and employed helpers, 43.3 percent gave birth to a second child six years or less after their firstborn, compared to 29.9 percent for those who did not have helpers.

However, the phenomenon was not observed when concerning a third child.

The SAR is facing a shortage of helpers due to flight restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and the university's assistant sociology professor Adam Cheung Ka-lok said less well-off households find it difficult to retain their existing helpers as they are less financially capable of offering higher competitive pay.

"The employment of helpers at these less well-off families are more unstable, so they often need to hire new helpers frequently," he said.

Meanwhile, Courtyard by Marriott in Sha Tin, which will serve as a new quarantine hotel for foreign domestic helpers, has been fully booked until February.

From December 8, the Courtyard by Marriott in Sha Tin will provide 500 rooms for helpers' quarantine, priced at HK$650 per night.

Courtyard by Marriott opened for bookings at 9am yesterday. In less than half an hour, all rooms available until February were fully booked.

Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association chairman Cheung Kit-man said his company managed to book a dozen rooms.

With outbreaks in the Philippines and Indonesia abating, he called for a further increase in the number of quarantine hotels for helpers to provide 500 additional rooms.

That would facilitate the return of up to 7,000 helpers who are stranded in their home countries, Cheung said.