Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

More than a thousand Filipino workers get ready to head to Hong Kong as Manila lifts labour export ban

The Philippine government stopped issuing the necessary certificates for outbound workers for three weeks, due to concerns over illegal recruitment and ‘unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 5:38pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 11:26pm

Hong Kong employers can expect the arrival of new Filipino domestic helpers in the coming weeks as the Philippine government lifted its three-week ban on the export of labour.

Jalilo Dela Torre, labour attaché at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, said 1,200 Hong Kong families had been affected by the ban.

On Monday, Manila resumed processing the backlog of the country’s 75,000 workers applying to work overseas, including domestic helpers, according to Dela Torre.

The halt on the export of labour from the archipelago nation to the rest of the world came into force on November 11 when its government suspended the issuance of overseas employment certificates, a necessary document for all outbound workers.

The ban came after it identified “persistent reports of illegal recruitment” and “pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos” and was lifted on December 1 as planned.

Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association chairman Cheung Kit-man expected that it would take seven to 10 days for the Philippine government to issue the first new overseas employment certificates, which normally takes less than one week to approve. Upon this approval, domestic workers will be able to book their flights to the city.

Dela Torre said: “The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration will work overtime … and do everything in their capacity to clear the backlog … It will ensure that those affected by the ban will be processed ahead of the other [new applications].”

But he said he could not estimate the time it would take to process the delayed applications as it fell within the purview of the Philippine government.

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Cheung said his employment agency, Overseas Employment Centre, had accumulated around 100 new employment cases.

“Most employers are in urgent need of a maid,” said Cheung. “They have been making phone calls to the agency asking when the approval will come. Some worried that their maids would not come through and some even thought of giving up hiring one from the Philippines.”

In response to the labour ban, the Hong Kong government on November 16 announced the “flexibility arrangement” to allow local employers of maids whose contracts were due to expire by the end of the year to extend them until the end of February.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department said it had received 26 such applications for contract extensions as of end-November.

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The Philippine government’s labour ban was especially significant for Hong Kong. According to 2016 Legislative Council figures, the Philippines provided 189,000 of the city’s 352,000 domestic helpers in total, more than any other country.

Domestic helpers are expected to play an increasingly prominent role in serving Hong Kong’s rapidly ageing population. Residents aged 65 or older are likely to make up close to one-third of the population in 2036.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said in a recent wide-ranging interview with the Post that Hong Kong would need a fresh wave of 240,000 domestic helpers in the next three decades amid escalating demand for elderly care.