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New ‘caregiver’ category for OFWs eyed

07 November 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong must continue learning new skills like massage therapy so they could be first in line for the new “caregiver” category that the government is planning to introduce soon to address its ageing population.

Vice Consul Robert Quintin
This was the message that Vice Consul Robert Quintin, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, gave on Oct 29 during the awarding of certificates to recent graduates of advanced lessons on massage therapy conducted by Umela-HK.

“I don’t want to pre-empt this, but there is a move by the Hong Kong government to create a new category of workers for elderly care,” VC Quintin said.

He encouraged Umela graduates and trainees to continue improving their skills as this could be put to good use if they decide to vie for the caregiver post in future.

His call came in the wake of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement in her maiden policy address on Oct 11 that the government would consider giving subsidized elderly-service units more flexibility on importing caregivers.

The Hong Kong government also disclosed plans to launch an experimental program to equip 300 domestic workers already in the city with nursing skills to improve their ability to meet the needs of their elderly wards.

The 18-month trial program, co-organized by the Health and Social Welfare Departments, is set to be launched in the first quarter of next year.

The Labor Department and Security Bureau are also reportedly planning to set up an interdepartmental group for creating a mechanism to hire foreign caregivers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Southeast Asian countries.

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre
Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre said he has heard about the plan, but has not been officially informed or consulted on it. “But there should be a separate category for caregivers. It’s no use if our workers are merely trained to do the job,” he said.

Labatt dela Torre that the Philippine government has more than enough qualified nurses and other medically-trained workers already in Hong Kong to meet the city’s demand for caregivers.

“As soon as they inform us officially about the plan, we can go to work right away,” he said.

For months since he took office, Labatt dela Torre has been meeting with Filipino nurses and midwives to urge them to continue honing their skills so they can either return home, or go to other places where they can practice their profession.

 “I am confident we can provide more than enough skilled workers to meet Hong Kong’s needs,” he said.

He said he welcomed any moves to upgrade the work category and salary level of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong so they won’t be forced to look elsewhere for better jobs and pay.

But he said the Hong Kong should clarify the criteria first. Like, those who are registered nurses should have priority, and put on a higher level than those who finished short courses on say, caregiving or massage therapy.

He also urged a salary level commensurate to their qualifications and experience, saying the $12,000 being floated around is acceptable as starting pay.

The amount is the median salary for caregivers working in private elderly home facilities, while those who work in subsidized government centers earn an average of $14,000 a month.

The idea of introducing a category upgrade for foreign domestic helpers has long been floated in Hong Kong, mainly by the Philippines and Indonesia, which supply the most number of migrant workers in the city.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Labor recently said it would send a delegation to Hong Kong to find out more about the plan to open the city’s elderly care sector to foreign workers.

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