Impractical idea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 2002, 12:00am

I refer to the report headlined 'Freeze number of foreign helpers, says Exco member' (South China Morning Post, March 20).

Executive Councillor Tam Yiu-chung has called for the freeze to ease unemployment in Hong Kong.

Obviously the markets for local and foreign domestic helpers are different. Freezing the number of foreign helpers would not necessarily create jobs for local people.

The market for foreign domestic helpers emerged because medium-income families could afford them. A local domestic commands a higher salary.

In the same report legislator Ng Leung-sing suggested a $1,500 a month government subsidy to locals willing to work as domestics.

How could the Government possibly police this system and ensure it was not being abused? Several bogus employment contracts could be filed.

It is a deep-rooted belief in Chinese culture that the position of an amah (local domestic helper) is held in low esteem. Such a job would not appeal to younger members of the workforce. That could explain why despite the difficult economic times in Hong Kong, only 6,839 registered with the Labour Department for 6,979 local domestic-helper vacancies. It has been my experience that foreign helpers will stay longer with one employer than amahs from Hong Kong. That is an important consideration for a couple with children.

I have always respected Mr Tam as an Exco member, but he needs to rethink this proposal.


Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada