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'Job hopping’ a myth, say migrant support groups

04 February 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Leung wants employers helped to ensure their helper goes home after termination

Migrant support organizations have lashed back at recent allegations by pro-Beijing legislators of “job-hopping” among foreign domestic workers, calling the accusation a myth and discriminatory.

Their statements issued today, Feb 4, were made in the wake of the legislators’ calls for further restrictions on FDWs, ostensibly to prevent them from changing employers at will.

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In yesterday’s question and answer session at the Legislative Council, Priscilla Leung who represents Kowloon West, suggested setting up a mechanism whereby employers could monitor whether their former FDW had actually returned to her place of origin after termination.

Leung also suggested amending the law to allow employers to demand reimbursements from employment agencies if the FDW they hired left without completing their two-year contract.

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Legislator Starry Lee, who heads the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), meanwhile, alleged in a previous Legco session on Jan 27 that agencies were giving cash incentives to entice FDWs to shift employers.

Lee said “some media have uncovered” that FDWs who finished their contracts were being offered $2,000 while those whose contracts were prematurely terminated could get $1,000.


She did not, however, submit any proof to back up her claim. Nor did she explain why FDWs who managed to finish their two-year contracts should be considered as job hoppers who could be enticed to accept rewards for moving to another employer.

Lee also ignored another factor that could prevent so-called job hopping by FDWs, although she cited it in the first part of her question. This was Immigration’s decision since Dec 30 last year to revert to its policy of requiring all terminated FDWs to leave Hong Kong within 14 days after termination.


The DAB head started her question by saying employers are forced to pay a high price for employing FDWs.

“At present, employers have to bear high expenses for employing foreign domestic helpers (FDHs), which include the board and lodging expenses for 21-day compulsory quarantine in a hotel upon FDHs' arrival in Hong Kong. In the event that FDHs prematurely terminate their employment contracts or deliberately perform badly to force their employers to fire them so as to change employers (commonly known as "job-hopping"), the employers concerned will suffer great financial losses. Moreover, for the purpose of cutting expenses and reducing the risk of being infected with epidemic diseases, quite a number of prospective employers do not hesitate to pay higher salaries for employing those FDHs already in Hong Kong, thereby aggravating the situation of job-hopping,” Lee said.

Starry Lee claims agents offer $1k-$2k to FDWs to entice them to change employers

In separate statements, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body and the Mission for Migrant Workers both pointed out that allegations of job hopping violate the worker’s right under the standard employment contract.

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They said that the worker, like the employer, is given the right to terminate the contract by giving one month’s notice, or paying a month’s salary in lieu of notice.

“This clearly states that we legally have a right to terminate our contracts. The continuation of the myth of 'job-hopping' narrative shows how the HK government continues to want to treat us like slaves, denying MDWs (migrant domestic workers) ..basic rights that are clearly outlined in our employment contract,” said the AMCB.


Separately, the Mission said: “The current idea of “job-hopping” is an unfair accusation and discrimination on MDWs who prematurely terminate their employment contracts for changing employers.”

Because of that unfair labeling, migrant workers are discouraged from taking steps to protect themselves from bad or even abusive employers for fear of having “bad records,” said the Mission.

It added that Immigration does not have a clear-cut definition of what constitutes “job hopping,” so the discretion to decide which cases fall under this category is left to individual immigration officers.

Both groups lamented that all other workers in Hong Kong who face problems in their workplaces are not subjected to the same restrictions.

“Local workers can just give one-week notice before they quit their jobs. Yet MDWs must give one-month notice and do so with the worry of being accused of job-hopping,” said the AMCB. “This double standard is yet another example of the Hong Kong government’s discrimination against MDWs”

In his replies to both legislators, Secretary for Security John Lee noted the government’s 14-day policy. He said employment visa applications of terminated FDWs who have not returned to their home countries will not normally be approved except under exceptional circumstances as the employer’s relocation, death, or financial incapacity.

He also said that the relaxation of this policy from March to December last year “was to respond to demands of employers who need to employ FDHs and to reduce FDHs’ risk of Covid-19 infection due to traveling to and from their places of origin.”

But he agreed that job-hopping was unfair to employers, so Immigration has, since June 2013, been scrutinizing FDH employment applications to check on the number and reasons of their premature terminations.

Lee cited statistics showing the number of employment visa applications made by FDWs over the past three years.

In 2018, the number of applications were 103,014 and of these, 1,184 were scrutinized for job hopping. But ultimately, only 165 were rejected. Another 200 were withdrawn or not followed up.

In 2019, the numbers were 102,495 applications and 1,709 job-hopping suspects. After investigation, 267 applications were rejected and another 132 were withdrawn.

In 2020, the total number dipped to 74,253, and 1,776 of these examined for job-hopping. Ultimately, only 319 applications were denied, with a further 217 withdrawn.

The numbers did not include applications for renewal of employment contract with the same employer, or for change of employer after completion of contract, which would have amounted to about the same number.

“Compared to 2018, the number of applications rejected by the special duties team in 2020 increased by 93 per cent,” said Secretary Lee.

AMCB only a tiny fraction of all FDWs have been found to be 'job hoppers'

But AMCB had a different take on the figures. It pointed out that since 2013, “only 14,721 applications were referred to the (job-hopping) team while only 6% of those were denied by HK immigration. Compare this to the hundreds of thousands domestic workers currently in Hong Kong,” said the group.

The all-migrant organization also heaped scorn on legislator Lee's claim that they would terminate their contracts to get the $1,000 and $2,000 supposedly offered by agencies to entice them to shift employers. 

"This is ridiculous as MDWs come to Hong Kong to work to support our families back home. We would not give up a job to have to pay more to our employment agencies," said the AMCB statement.

The group called on FDWs not to let the anti job-hopping campaign deter them from speaking out and taking action when they find themselves in abusive situations.

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