Owing to the rapidly ageing population, Hong Kong is projected to require a fresh wave of 240,000 domestic helpers in the next three decades to take care of the elderly. Regarding to the issue, the Labour Minister has warned the significant impact as the mainland opens up to migrant workers from the Philippines.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said that if the wages for domestic workers on the mainland were doubled from those in the city, about 190,000 Filipino helpers in Hong Kong might opt to leave and seek work across the border. According to him, there are currently 360,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Because of greying population, in the next 30 years that demand will grow to 600,000, which means that 240,000 foreign domestic helpers are needed to look after the elderly, South China Morning Post reports.
The Labour and Welfare Bureau is working on exploring new markets such as Cambodia and Myanmar while increasing efforts to tap into existing ones such as Bangladesh to deal with the increasing demands. However, Dr Law expressed hesitation and concern over accepting Vietnamese domestic helpers, mostly owing to the large numbers of illegal Vietnamese immigrants in the city.
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The government projects that the number of Hong Kong residents aged 65 or older will climb from 1.16 million last year to more than 2.37 million by 2036, which makes up 31 percent of the population that year.
Adding the problem, reports suggested that the mainland government was set to allow its citizen to employ Filipino workers for HK$15,500 a month, almost four times the minimum wage for domestic helpers in Hong Kong. However, Philippine labour undersecretary Dominador Say has confirmed that the Chinese embassy in Manila had approached him on the matter, but the reported figures were not correct.
As for now, only foreigners and people from Hong Kong and Macau are allowed to hire foreign domestic helpers in some mainland cities. Dr Law said that hiring Filipino workers seem like an appealing option on the mainland because of the population size, high number of billionaires there, as well as the charm of having a migrant domestic helper who can speak English.
“Just in case the salaries [mainlanders] are willing to pay are double those of Hong Kong, then definitely I [think] that almost half of our current 190,000 foreign domestic helpers from the Philippines will be gone. That would be a very significant impact,” he added.
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