Hong Kong could be facing an acute shortage of domestic helpers by 2017.
A senior Indonesian government adviser predicts the number of workers from his country will drop sharply in the next five years as Indonesia's economy and education system prospers.
Indonesians make up about half the city's foreign domestic helpers. According to the Immigration Department, there were 152,557 Indonesian and 149,009 Filipino domestic helpers in the city in July, accounting for 97.6 per cent of the total number of domestic workers.
But at the Indonesian Business Forum held in Hong Kong last week, keynote speaker and Indonesian government economic adviser Professor Hermanto Siregar said he believed that big changes lay ahead. Siregar said the Ministry of Labour in Indonesia was trying to increase the skills sets and education of those intending to work abroad.
"Semi-skilled workers in the construction and building industry are what we plan to export to the likes of Hong Kong, with the numbers of domestic helpers declining," Hermanto said.
"The education of many potential workers is improving each year, so they will naturally look for better jobs if they want to work in Hong Kong."
As the biggest nation in Southeast Asia, Indonesia has a booming economy. Much less affected by the global financial crisis than its neighbours, the country's economy grew 6.1 per cent in 2010 and 6.5 per cent last year.
The government is aiming for annual per capita income to rise from US$3,000 now to US$15,000 by 2025.
Hermanto said he expected further vibrant economic growth in Indonesia, which would mean that those looking to work abroad would be aiming at better jobs and the numbers of domestic helpers would keep declining.
"In five years it will be a very different situation," he said. "These changes are already happening in the likes of South Korea and Japan. There are many semi-skilled workers employed there now on much better wages than they would earn as domestic helpers."
He also said that as Indonesia's economy had improved, many Indonesians now preferred to work at home.
The number of domestic helpers in Hong Kong continues to grow, but the growth has slowed, according to Immigration Department statistics. The increase was 17,903 in 2010, but dropped to 14,280 last year.
In September, domestic helper agencies in Hong Kong said the Philippine government was also planning policies to discourage their citizens from doing such work overseas.