'There will be chaos' if helpers win abode rights

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am


Domestic helpers should not get permanent residency because the city could not sustain such an influx, an association representing employers of helpers says.

About 290,000 helpers work in the city - including 146,000 from Indonesia and 139,000 from the Philippines. Five Filipinos, two of them helpers and two former helpers, are fighting in the High Court for the right of abode, which other immigrants can get after seven years in Hong Kong. The plaintiffs in three judicial reviews want the court to declare that the rule denying helpers residency contravenes the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution. Next week the court will hear the first judicial review, brought by Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino who has worked in the city for 25 years.

Joseph Law, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Domestic Helpers Association, which earlier called on the government to seek an interpretation of the Basic Law if the court rules in favour of the helpers, said the association's biggest worry was discord in the city. 'Our policies and facilities for education, medical care and housing cannot cope with the sudden increase of so many permanent residents if helpers win the case,' he said. 'Our society has never taken [the possibility] into account and there will be chaos.'

Law also said helpers would have an edge in the job market because 'their English is very good'.

He said it would be wrong to describe estimates of an influx of as many as 400,000 domestic helpers and their family members as an exaggeration. In the past two months he had talked to over 400 helpers, of whom 70 per cent said, 'Of course' or 'Why not?' when asked if they wanted to live in Hong Kong permanently.

'Fifteen per cent said they would wait and see,' he said. 'The remaining 15 per cent, who were mostly aged 50 or above, said they would not live in Hong Kong as they'd rather go back to live in the Philippines.'

The group said helpers came to Hong Kong under a special immigration scheme for unskilled workers under which there had never been any intention that they could have permanent residency.

'We really thank the helpers for the contribution to Hong Kong, but it should not be rewarded by granting them the right of abode,' Law said. He noted helpers in the city were paid better than elsewhere in Asia.

Association committee member Josephine Ong said denying helpers permanent residency was not racist. 'Many other places have immigration laws to protect against an influx of economic migrants.' she said.

The group said seeking an interpretation of the Basic Law should not be seen as a threat to judicial independence.


Percentage of 400-plus helpers who, when asked if they wanted to live in the city permanently, said 'Of course' or 'why not?'