I refer to the article headlined 'Live where you're told to' and the editorial headlined 'House bound', both of which appeared in the Sunday Morning Post, on November 4.
Let me reiterate a stated policy of the Hong Kong Government. Local workers must be given priority in filling any vacancies in the job market. It is only when employers are unable to recruit locals to fill their job vacancies that they will be allowed to bring in imported workers.
Very few local workers are willing to take up live-in domestic helper vacancies. Therefore, the Government allows employers to import foreign domestic helpers to fill the void.
The situation is, however, quite different in the case of domestic helper vacancies that do not require domestic helpers to live in. There is now clear evidence that an increasing number of local workers are prepared to take such jobs.
The number of local domestic helpers trained by the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) has increased from 323 per year in financial year 1995-1996 to more than 9,000 per year in 2000-2001. The ERB has trained more than 27,000 local domestic helpers since 1995. As at October 31, more than 3,300 local job seekers had registered with the Labour Department seeking domestic helper jobs. Many more are looking for such jobs through ERB training bodies. A recent survey commissioned by the Education and Manpower Bureau also confirmed the existence of a large pool of local people who are willing to work as domestic helpers. The vast majority of these people have indicated a willingness to take up jobs as domestics which do not require them to stay overnight in the employer's home.
In line with the original intention of filling the demand gap for live-in domestic helpers, the Government is proposing that employers should no longer be allowed to bring in foreign domestic helpers where they are not required to live with them. If employers wish to look for this kind of domestic helper, they should engage a local worker, as there is now an abundant supply.
Trained local domestic helpers are prepared to work for a fee of around $50 an hour, which according to your report, is the amount currently charged by foreign domestics engaged in illegal part-time work. Untrained ones are prepared to work for less.
Put simply, the Government proposes to preserve job opportunities for local workers. We will consult the community in the next few months before taking a final decision.
PHILIP K. F. CHOK
for Secretary for Education and Manpower