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4,600 FDHs lose jobs in past 4 months

05 May 2020


By Vir B. Lumicao

OFWs process their documents at the Consulate.

Nearly 3,000 Filipino domestic workers lost their jobs in Hong Kong last month, the single biggest monthly drop in their numbers since they first started coming to the city in the late ‘70s.

Combined with nearly 2,000 job losses in the sector between January and February this year, the total decline so far this year is a staggering 4,667, much of it the result of the coronavirus contagion.

Latest figures from the Immigration Department show that as of Apr 30, there were a total of 215,061 Filipino domestic workers, a drop of 2,941 compared with the 218,002 posted by the end of March.

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In January, the total FDW population was 219,728.

A slight correction was noted between February and March, when the FDW tally rose by 348, an offshoot of the lifting of the travel ban that the Philippines imposed on travelers to Hong Kong on Feb 2, and lasted for 16 days.

Overall, however, the outlook looks grim for all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Between January and April this year, a total of 8,097 FDHs lost their jobs, with more than 5,000 of these recorded just last month.

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This appears to be due to employers losing their jobs or businesses, or relocating to other places to escape not just the virus, but also the violent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and the police which broke out sporadically in the last half of 2019.

The double whammy has resulted in Hong Kong’s economy shrinking by 8.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, which Chief Executive Carrie Lam has described as “worse than expected.”

Another big loser in the jobs market is Indonesia, whose FDH population dropped by 2,571 over the last month alone. But overall, the drop in their numbers this year was just 3,151, indicating that most of the Indonesians lost their jobs only in the last two months.

Many businesses have been shuttered during the pandemic.

In the Filipinas’ case, many of the terminations were also due to the stepped-up pressure they experienced being cooped up in tiny flats with their employers’ family, who rarely left home for fear of the virus.

Several migrant support organizations have reported of  helpers giving up on their jobs because of the non-stop work they were subjected to, apart from frequent scoldings and inadequate work and rest.

The situation reportedly got worse when the employers started working from home, or simply stayed put due to the social distancing protocol.


Many others decided to break their contracts after being stopped from leaving the house even on their only day-off in the week.

The Mission for Migrant Workers a church-based group, said that from Mar 1 and to Apr 27 this year alone, 37 dismissed Filipino helpers had approached them for help.

Domestic Workers Corner, an online mutual support group of helpers, reported 25 of its members being sacked during the same period. Founder Rodelia Pedro said 12 of her members who chose to break their contracts cited maltreatment from employers.

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Johannie Tong, Mission’s community relations officer, said in a recent interview that 15 of the workers who lost their jobs in March-April were dismissed on the spot, without the one-month notice required by Hong Kong labour laws.

Tong said on the three weekdays that Mission opens its doors, an average of four distressed Filipino maids walk in. On the half-day that it opens on Sundays, the NGO receives an average of one or two cases.

She said these are apart from Indonesian helpers and those of other nationalities who come looking for succor. Tong said most of the workers were already fired when they approached the Mission.

Tong said in one case, the maid insisted on stepping out for awhile to remit money to her family in the Philippines. She was fired as soon as she returned.

FDH Population in Hong Kong


As of end of
Month/Year
Philippines
Indonesia
India
Other
nationalities
Total -- all
nationalities
Jan-19
213,110
167,480
4,515
4,766
389,871
Feb-19
214,018
167,623
4,570
4,758
390,969
Mar-19
214,211
168,060
4,557
4,758
391,586
Apr-19
214,358
168,377
4,564
4,737
392,036






As of end of
Month/Year
Philippines
Indonesia
India
Other
nationalities
Total -- all
nationalities
Jan-20
219,728
170,898
4,838
4,657
400,121
Feb-20
217,654
171,291
4,857
4,619
398,421
Mar-20
218,002
170,318
4,818
4,594
397,732
Apr-20
215,061
167,747
4,723
4,493
392,024
Source: HK Immigration Department


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