In this article, logistic regression models were used to assess the effects of live-in domestic workers on married women's economic activity status. One percent random samples of the Hong Kong census and by-census data from the period 1981-2001 were used, and domestic workers are conceptualized as substitutes for wives' domestic labour. Hypotheses are tested, which alternatively conceptualize domestic workers as substitutions for wives' domestic labour, and as having symbolic functions for the family household and for the wives' gender role. The presence of live-in domestic workers significantly increases the odds of mothers (but not non-mothers) being economically active. The effects of domestic workers on the odds of whether married women work vary over time and differ according to household income and wives' educational attainment. Findings lend support to the symbolic functions of domestic workers and to the role of lifestyle preferences in women's employment. Further research using time budget, qualitative and attitudinal data are required in order to further understand the functions of domestic workers in the social reproduction of family and gender roles.