Ban on maids at the wheel defended

Officials yesterday defended their decision to ban domestic helpers from acting as chauffeurs for employers.

Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower Philip Chok Kin-fun said the number of driving licences issued to domestic helpers had increased significantly.

However, he said only a small number of employers of domestic helpers would be affected by the ban.

About 184,000 foreign domestic helpers work in Hong Kong but only 2,367 hold valid local driving licences.

The ban, beginning in January, will mean helpers found acting as chauffeurs will be in breach of conditions of stay.

Principal Assistant Secretary for Security So Kam-shing said there was a grey area in present employment contracts. 'It's easier and clearer to enforce the law if there is a ban. We can't follow a domestic helper round the clock to check if she's a full-time chauffeur.' Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee of the Liberal Party said the Government should not penalise employers who wanted domestic helpers to drive occasionally simply because it was not able to enforce the law.

But unionist Lee Cheuk-yan disagreed. 'We need a balance here. We can't just think about the convenience of the employers and ignore the employment and living of the local drivers.' A survey by the Motor Transport Workers General Union showed about 400 drivers' posts had been taken by foreign domestic helpers.