Push to lift ban on maids from Vietnam

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am

An employment agency wants Hong Kong to start hiring domestic helpers from Vietnam, but the Immigration Department said they were banned for security reasons.

The Association of Vietnamese Employment Agencies said the government should reverse the ban on importing domestic workers from Vietnam. It also commissioned a survey of about 1,200 people by the Hong Kong Shue Yan University, which found that 40 per cent supported having Vietnamese maids working in the city. Only 20 per cent said they would oppose the idea.

The association was set up last year by its chairman Patrick Chan Yui-kei, who said countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand did not supply enough workers because of growing demand.

'Vietnamese maids all have to undergo longer training than Filipino maids. They are well poised to work as domestic helpers here,' he said.

Chan said many Vietnamese domestic helpers were drawn to the Middle East, where they were in great demand, as well as to Europe and North America, which offered better working conditions.

Vietnamese maids also commonly work in Macau, Taiwan and Korea. There were about 5,600 Vietnamese maids in Macau, about 500 fewer than Filipino maids there, the Macau government said.

However, a spokesman for the Immigration Department said the current policy was based on evaluation of the country involved, including its security concerns.

He did not elaborate but the government had been haunted by Vietnamese refugee problems for almost three decades until the 1990s and illegal migrants from the country continue to slip into Hong Kong.

Holly Allan, manager of Helpers for Domestic Helpers - a non-profit organisation that provides free counselling and guidance for foreign domestic workers - said she thought people from all nationalities should be allowed to come. 'I don't think they should base it on how someone looks or where she is from,' she said.

Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, security panel chairman, said Vietnamese maids were barred entry because of the historical problem with refugees.

The Central Policy Unit last year explored introducing domestic helpers from the mainland. The research was done because of language and cultural differences between existing employers and maids. But some were concerned that people might abuse the system by trying to bring mainland wives and relatives into the city.

In 1998, there were 140,357 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong and only 31,762 from Indonesia, according to the Immigration Department.

Today, there are 136,723 Filipinos, 140,720 Indonesians, 3,744 Thais, 893 Sri Lankans, 568 Nepalese, and 2,253 of other nationalities including Indians.

Support for change

The percentage of HK people who back the idea of Vietnamese maids: 40%