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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Contract extension boost for Hong Kong employers hit by Philippine labour export ban

Government doubles length of extensions allowed to soften impact of Manila suspension

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 10:55pm

The Hong Kong government on Thursday boosted the length of contract extensions available to families with domestic helpers affected by the Philippine government’s halt on labour exports.

Such extensions – usually limited to one month – can now last two months.

The “flexibility arrangement” is intended to soften the impact on employers of helpers whose contract is soon to expire and who cannot get a replacement in time.

On Monday, the Manila government stopped issuing overseas employment certificates, which all outbound workers from the archipelago nation need. The suspension is set to last three weeks.

Officials in the country said the halt came after they found “persistent reports of illegal recruitment” and “pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos”.

The halt was of particular importance to Hong Kong. According to 2016 Legislative Council figures, the Philippines provides 189,000 of the city’s domestic helpers, more than any other country.

“We hope that the above-mentioned flexibility arrangement can help families affected by the situation or in need, especially those who need help taking care of the elderly and children, so that they can continue to retain their current [domestic helpers] temporarily while waiting,” a government spokesman said.

He said the government would continue to liaise with the Philippine consulate and seek an exemption for Hong Kong as soon as possible.

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Jalilo Dela Torre, labour attaché at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, said earlier he would liaise with his government with a view to shortening the suspension or exempting Hong Kong from the ban, which Secretary for Labour and ­Welfare Law Chi-kwong ­estimated could affect about 1,000 local families.

Under the usual rules, families who wish to extend a contract with helpers for less than a month can do so by applying to the Immigration Department.

Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies welcomed the move.

Union chairman Thomas Chan Tung-fung said it would be helpful for workers who needed to renew their contract but were stranded because of the ban.

But for households without a domestic helper and needing one urgently, the arrangement was unlikely to help unless their application was exempted from the ban.

“We would suggest the Hong Kong government invite their Philippine counterparts to consider exemptions for [urgent] applications that go through employment agencies in the city accredited by the Philippine authorities,” Chan said

He said this proposal, which was raised to Dela Torre on Monday, would need the support from the Hong Kong government to make it possible.