A crackdown on illegal recruitment by the Philippine government is expected to affect hundreds of Hong Kong families that depend on Filipino domestic helpers to take care of seniors and children.
The Philippines’ labor and employment department announced the suspension of overseas employment certificates (OECs) for 15 working days starting from Monday, citing illegal recruitment activities, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Filipinos who want to work overseas must apply for such certificates before they depart. It is also required for domestic helpers who work in Hong Kong and for those wishing to go on home visits.
The Philippine labor attache in Hong Kong said the policy does not apply to domestic helpers who have acquired work permits issued by Hong Kong Immigration Department on or before Nov. 11.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr. Law Chi-kwong estimated that about 1,000 local families will be affected as a result. He said his bureau has been in contact with the Philippines consulate general.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on Sunday that affected families can call the Social Welfare Department for assistance, adding the Immigration Department can extend the deadlines of Filipino maids’ services under special circumstances.
Cheung said the suspension imposed by the Philippines is not specifically aimed at Hong Kong as the two have a good relationship.
Hong Kong has about 370,000 domestic helpers, half of whom are from the Philippines. Extending their work permits for more than a month will need approval from the Commissioner for Labour.
According to Cheung Kit-man, chairman of the Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association, Hong Kong has a tighter rule when it comes to issuing work permits to Filipino domestic helpers as they are required to own an OEC in advance. No such certificate is required in Macau, Taiwan and Singapore.
Cheung said he will meet with officials of the consulate general on Monday, hoping to get exemption for Hong Kong in terms of the suspension.
Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, who chairs the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, said local employers are not expected to hire domestic helpers from other countries since the suspension only has a short-term impact.
Meanwhile, about 40 Filipino domestic helpers petitioned the Philippine consulate to demand the abolition of the OEC which they claimed is a tool used by the authorities for profit.
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