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FDH numbers fall further amid Covid-19 restrictions, visa refusals

02 December 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao

FDHs waiting to process documents outside Immigration Tower in Wanchai (file)

Hong Kong’s foreign domestic helper population fell by 1,358 last month, obviously due to coronavirus-related slowing of worker arrivals and stricter immigration rules requiring helpers who prematurely terminate their contract to exit and apply for visa from home.

A big part of the decline must be due to the difficulty encountered by most inbound FDHs in booking a room at any of the three quarantine facilities designated for their use by the Hong Kong government. 

Both Filipino and Indonesian FDH population numbers had tumbled as of Nov 30 to 197,071 and 145,000, respectively, the latest figures from the Immigration Department show. 


For the Philippines, the decline was 314; for Indonesia, it was a larger 957 drop.

Even India, the third-largest supplier of domestic workers to Hong Kong, saw its FDH population fall by 531 last month to 3,497, reflecting the pandemic restrictions. However, a total of 476 FDHs were added to the tally from countries designated only as "others" in the Immigration data.

Hong Kong’s total FDH population had fallen to 350,050 at the end of November from 351,408 a month earlier.


In November, the Hong Kong government tightened further its policy against so-called “job-hopping” FDHs, those who are suspected of prematurely terminating their contracts to switch to employers who offer better deals.

According to Immigration Department figures, a total of 1,332 visa applications from suspected job hoppers were denied from January to September this year alone.

The number is said to be already four times the number of visa rejections made by Immigration for the whole of last year.

The policy has caught many pre-terminated Filipino workers in a bind when their work applications for their new employers were rejected by Immigration.

Chan says FDHs moving to third countries is also behind the continuing decline in their numbers

Thomas Chan, president of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, said the tightening of rules by the host government is behind the steady drop in the number of Filipino and Indonesian FDHs.

“Yes, the number of both Filipino and Indonesian dropped again for the month of November. I think it is the result of restrictions on new arrivals from these two countries,” Chan said.

He said contributing to the shrinking numbers are the usual reasons why FDHs decide to go home for good, as well as the growing number of those lured by offers of better-paying jobs in a third country.


“The natural loss happens all the time because some FDHs will go home for marriage, health reasons or family problems,” said Chan.

“Another phenomenon people usually overlook…though it is illegal in the Philippines, third-country recruitment is quite active in Hong Kong, attracting lots of Philippine helpers to Poland, Turkey and Russia, in hopes of landing in Europe.”

The last factor is the refusal by Immigration to allow helpers to move from one employer to another without leaving Hong Kong, he said. The visa rejections, according to him, rose sharply starting in mid-October.

Pindutin para sa detalye

In a recent letter, the Employment Agencies Administration reminded recruiters to strictly observe the anti-job hopping policy and not induce helpers to switch employers for financial reward.

The agency watchdog said the number of complaints against agencies that allegedly induced FDHs to job-hop has surged from 29 last year to 120 in January-September this year alone.

However, the EAA did not explain the wide gap between the number of visa applications rejected by Immigration and the so-called job-hopping cases.

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