Can Hong Kong use some of its budget surplus to give domestic helpers a place to rest on days off?
You have reported that Hong Kong will need 600,000 foreign domestic helpers by 2047. This is about 240,000 more than we have at present and 343,400 more than the number present in Hong Kong in 2008. These figures accord with the Research Office of the Legislative Council Secretariat.
The Legco brief is very scholarly, with many details, graphs and tables. Some pertinent facts are that helpers significantly enable households to better care for their elderly, their children or those with special needs, and “release local females from housework for productive work in the job market, making an invaluable contribution to economic development”. Obviously, the helpers contribute substantially to the economy and GDP of Hong Kong.
Foreign domestic helpers (FDH) are entitled to statutory employment protection under the Employment Ordinance (Cap 57) and the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (Cap 282), including weekly rest day, statutory holidays and annual leave. They are also entitled to additional statutory benefits.
However, at present, these helpers have nowhere to go to relax during their statutory rest days, which is generally a Sunday or public holiday. Perforce, they loiter in parks, playgrounds, in the vicinity of public buildings which are closed for the holiday, on pavements, footbridges and so on.
It is unconscionable for such a large number of productive workers to be consistently and regularly forced to loiter in such a manner.
One solution may be to use a little of the extraordinary budget surpluses that have accrued to provide a dedicated “FDH rest house” in a number of convenient locations spread all over the city. Each rest house may be equipped with facilities such as a hair salon and beauty parlour, a travel agent, a basic medical and health consultancy, and so on. Other readers may have additional, constructive suggestions.
Lt Col Nandan Nilakanta, Hung Hom