Date
18 October 2017
Residential care homes for the elderly will be allowed to hire foreigner workers to ease their manpower shortages, sources said. Photo: HKEJ
Residential care homes for the elderly will be allowed to hire foreigner workers to ease their manpower shortages, sources said. Photo: HKEJ

Govt eyes foreign maids for elderly homes

Hong Kong plans to tap some of the more than 300,000 foreign domestic helpers in the city to take care of senior citizens amid the lack of staff in the city’s care homes for the elderly.

And in order not to transfer the manpower shortage to local families who will still need domestic helpers, the city may need to import an additional 100,000 foreign maids to meet their demand.

The government has been actively looking for more sources of foreign domestic helpers in several Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia and Indonesia.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr. Law Chi-kwong said last month it is imperative for the government to enhance its elderly services as soon as possible since the aging of the city’s population has been accelerating.

The Census and Statistics Department has projected that the number of people aged 65 or above in Hong Kong is set to more than double in 50 years from 2016 and the number of those aged above 85 will more than quadruple during the period.

As such, Law said the manpower needed to look after them has shown a double-digit deficiency rate.

Sources said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is set to announce in her first policy address scheduled for next Wednesday that subsidized and self-financing residential care homes for the elderly will be allowed to hire foreigner workers to fill the manpower gap, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to sources, the target foreigners are domestic helpers who are working in Hong Kong and are experienced in taking care of the elderly.

They can be transferred to work for the residential homes through a foreign labor importation scheme.

The government believes such an arrangement will be attractive because despite the heavier workload in elderly homes, foreign maids will be earning twice as much as they are getting now.

The plan will have to be approved by the Labour Advisory Board before it can be implemented, the sources said, adding that the scheme may be more beneficial for self-financing homes since they are subject to less restrictions than their subsidized counterparts.

Dorothy Chow Lok-ming, chief supervisor for long-term care service of the Hong Kong Christian Service (elderly core business), which owns three care homes for the elderly, admitted it is hard to recruit young people to take care of elderly residents because most of them cannot stand the tiring job, adding that 65 percent of the caretakers are in their 50s, hk01.com reported.

For the plan of hiring foreign maids to be effective, Chow said the government should do more than simply transfer them to provide services for the elderly.

She explained that taking care of old people involves a lot of two-way communication, which many foreign maids are not capable of doing because of their insufficient language skills.

She said hiring locals as caretakers is a better solution, only that the current pay level must be raised and manpower ratio of caretakers to residents must be improved.

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TL/JC/CG

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