Date
19 November 2017
With a growing elderly population, Hong Kong authorities are under pressure to help out senior citizens, especially those who live alone. Photo: HKEJ
With a growing elderly population, Hong Kong authorities are under pressure to help out senior citizens, especially those who live alone. Photo: HKEJ

Govt mulls plan to help elderly singles hire domestic helpers

The government is said to be considering a domestic helper subsidy program in a bid to make life easier for senior citizens who live alone.

Under the plan, elderly singles will receive vouchers that they can redeem and use the money to pay for the services of domestic helpers, according to news website HK01.com.

Citing comments made by Secretary of Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong in a media interview, the report said the subsidy scheme could be rolled out in the coming five years.

The program will be mainly targeted at elders who live alone in public housing units.

Lam Ching-choi, an Executive Council member and the chairperson of the Elderly Commission, was quoted as saying that there are about 140,000 elderly citizens who live alone, with around 90,000 of them living in public housing.

It is predicted that around 20,000 elderly are need of financial assistance to help them hire domestic help.

As most of Hong Kong’s elderly rely on their families to take care of them, domestic helpers could be a key source of help in taking care of this group of people.

Given that Hong Kong has a readily available resource for employing domestic workers, authorities believe it won’t be difficult to channel more of them toward elderly care.

With retirement homes always short of manpower, the government thinks it is unavoidable to tap into domestic helpers from overseas.

The cost-efficiency of employing a domestic helper is also much higher as the average wage for a domestic helper is around HK$4,400 per month, in contrast to retirement home workers who are paid like locals.

Lam says that although at first glance the two jobs may seem similar, the professional nature of being a retirement home employee makes for a big difference.

There is no need to worry about competition for workers getting tight, he says, pointing out that retirement home employees usually require a university degree or experience of working in hospitals and hospice facilities.

Liu Tsui-lan, chairperson of the Association of Hong Kong Manpower Agencies, says the association welcomes the idea of handing out vouchers to the elderly, but hopes the government would do more in relation to the matter.

Authorities should consider adjusting the minimum income requirements for families who are going to employ domestic helpers, she said. 

Lui also noted that the Housing Authority often takes months to allow adding other members to the public housing units. Things need to be speeded up if the government were to subsidize the domestic helpers, she said.

Yuen Shuk-yan from the Society for Community Organisation, a non-governmental group, says she hopes the plan would work out as it can help alleviate the problem of lack of caregivers.

But there is a lot the government needs to look into, including the holidays that should be granted to the domestic helpers, she said.

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