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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Cambodian workers bound for Hong Kong in effort to meet demand for skilled domestic helpers

The government relaxed visa restrictions for workers, investors and students from the Southeast Asian country on March 1

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 5:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 6:26pm

The first batch of 1,000 Cambodian domestic helpers will arrive in Hong Kong this autumn as part of the city’s latest efforts to meet its increasing demand for maids.

Their pending arrival has been enabled by the Hong Kong ­government’s relaxation of visa restrictions for Cambodian ­workers, investors and students on March 1 as part of Beijing’s ­global trade development strategy along the old Silk Route, known as the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Hong Kong employment agencies welcomed the move, having long complained of a lack of qualified domestic helpers from countries other than the Philippines and Indonesia.

“There is an ever-increasing demand for domestic helpers from Hong Kong families ... the supply of Cambodian domestic helpers can ease the situation,” said Elain Fung, director of the ­Indo Indah Employment Agency.

The first group of 1,000 Cambodian migrant workers is expected to join the city’s 330,000 domestic helper workforce this September or October. It will be a test case to decide whether the scheme is workable or changes should be made.

The group will receive basic language, cooking and health care training for three months in Cambodia before arriving in Hong Kong, according to Simon Liu Wing-hing, chairman of the Cambodia Human Resource Development Association.

The association will act as the official representative of the Cambodian government to ensure they are protected in Hong Kong.

Employment agency fees will be determined after the first group has been assessed.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Centre, said it was difficult hiring domestic helpers from Indonesia and the Philippines due to restrictions imposed by their respective governments who do not encourage their citizens to take on maids’ work overseas.She welcomed the arrival of Cambodian helpers but said she would wait and see if they could fill the existing void.

“It depends if the training is adequate and suitable for the Hong Kong environment … but they have a long way to go before they can replace Indonesian ­domestic helpers,” she said.

“Cambodians are very new and the [Cambodian] agents have never been in the Hong Kong market before, so there are a lot of concerns.”

Both Liu and Fung were optimistic that the language barrier would not be an issue, saying many factories in Cambodia were owned by Chinese owners, and some workers could already speak Cantonese or Putonghua.