Philippines travel ban likely to boost cost of hiring domestic helpers: agency

Published (HKT): 2021.04.19 20:01

The travel ban slapped by Hong Kong authorities on arrivals from India, Pakistan and the Philippines will likely spark a surge in costs for hiring a domestic helper in local households, said employment agencies.

The concerns came after the city’s health authorities imposed a two-week travel ban on incoming flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines starting on Tuesday midnight. The decision was made after a 29-year-old man who had returned on a flight from Dubai tested positive for the N501Y mutant coronavirus strain.

However, the measure will constrict the supply of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, taking about 1,000 people out of that labor pool at least.

Domestic workers constitute roughly 3% of the local workforce. As of October 2017, there were about 360,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, with those from the Philippines and Indonesia accounting for the majority.

About 70 to 120 Filipino domestic helpers arrive in Hong Kong every day, said Kitman Cheung, chairperson of the Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association, meaning that the 14-day travel ban would affect about 1,000 to 1,700 foreign domestic helpers coming to Hong Kong.

Employer expenses would also increase by more than 10%, he added. He said he was also concerned that if a large number of helpers stayed in dormitories during the quarantine, the dense condition would stir up another outbreak among the helpers.

Due to the year-long pandemic, the monthly wage for one domestic helper had risen from roughly HK$4,600 (US$592) to more than HK$5,000, said Chan Tung-fung, chairperson of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies. Following the two-week ban, the wage could climb to HK$6,000 because of the short supply of helpers, he added.

The Hong Kong government should donate 10,000 or 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines for those who had been hired by Hong Kong households, he suggested.

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