• Wed
  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Updated: 4:06pm
Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong
NewsHong Kong

'Job-hopping' foreign domestic workers suspected of exploiting rules

More than 1,300 visa applications turned down over suspicion domestic workers swapped employers for severance pay and flight money

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 3:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 4:48pm

More than 1,300 foreign domestic helpers who applied for work visas in Hong Kong last year were suspected of "job-hopping" to collect severance pay, the Security Bureau says.

Of those, 170 applications were rejected, while another 158 were voluntarily withdrawn, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said yesterday.

They were detected after the Immigration Department tightened its examination of visa requests by overseas helpers in Hong Kong in June.

"The department will monitor closely those foreign domestic helpers who have been frequently changing their employers in the past 12 months," Lai said in the Legislative Council in reply to a question from lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan.

"This is to prevent them from exploiting the arrangements under a premature termination of contact."

Most domestic workers come from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Since the new visa application scheme began, the department has received 40,000 applications from helpers of which 1,372 or 3.4 per cent of the applicants were suspected of job hopping - meaning they had changed employers frequently without a proper reason.

In October, foreign domestic workers employers' associations accused some of having colluded with employment agencies to make gains by ending contacts prematurely or behaving badly to get themselves fired to obtain severance pay.

They were said to have exploited "loopholes" in the Immigration Ordinance, under which employers are required to pay for the helpers' flights home in addition to severance pay.

Helpers are obliged to leave the city within 14 days, but some helpers would go neighbouring cities such as Macau before taking up a new job at another household - pocketing the payment for a flight ticket home, the employers said.

Lai suggested that employers should not pay cash to helpers for their return flights when terminating their contracts.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said six employment agencies had been convicted of violations last year. He said the government would prosecute or cancel the licences of violators.

Agencies have also been accused of helping arrange loans for helpers, which ties up much of their salary and restricts their ability to leave bad employers.

Since recent helper-abuse cases came to light, Cheung said, the government was considering whether to tighten the licence rules for agencies to restrict them from getting involved in loans.



For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Helpers are job hopping for severance pay? What severance pay? Any domestic helper who terminates her contract early is not entitled to any severance pay. That is the law so no employer is going to pay a helper severance pay. In fact, unless a helper gives a month's notice, she is liable to pay a month's salary to the employer. Job-hopping for money? I don't think so. Helpers leave bad employers.
The expoitation of helpers who are offered loans by agencies needs to be stopped immediately. The loan repayments with exhorbitant interests turns helpers into slaves and in many cases also causes harrassment to the employers who usually knew nothing about these loans. On any Sunday, there are many agencies (read loansharks) circulating in Central and offering loans to mainly naive helpers. The government should ban these agencies and any other organization from offering loans. The reason helpers come to HK is to make and save some money - not to rack up debts.
This article suggests that helpers leave one employer to get the money for a flight home. The cost of a flight to Manila on Cebu Pacific (I doubt that any employer is going to fly his/her helper home business class on Cathay) costs less that a HKD1000. What rational person would terminate her job for HKD1000?
Hong Kong is a free market economy. In a free market workers are encouraged to seek the best employer, best pay rates and best working conditions. Why shouldn't domestic helpers be able to 'job hop'? Everyone else in Hong Kong is allowed to.


SCMP.com Account