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HK legislators push free public health care for sacked migrant workers

03 May 2019

By Daisy CL Mandap

There is a concerted move among Hong Kong’s legislators to get the government to extend free public medical care to foreign domestic workers, even after their employment contracts have been cut.

This is in tandem with the plan to require employers to provide private medical insurance to every domestic worker they hire or rehire.


The twin moves are being pushed by the chair of the Legislative Council’s manpower panel, Fernando Cheung, who says he has the support of his colleagues from across party lines.

“I was concerned that the current policy leaves a large loophole in the medical coverage of FDWs, who by and large, covered by public health care, and in some cases, (by) private medical insurance, but once their contract is terminated, their coverage is no longer there,” he told The SUN in an interview on Apr 26.

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“We urge the government to look into the matter and change the policy immediately,” he added.

Cheung said requiring employers to purchase medical insurance for FDWs is also being pursued, but implementing this could take time as it would mean changing the standard employment contract for FDWs all over again.

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Thus, he has focused more on getting public health care extended to FDWs who remain in Hong Kong despite having their visa cut.

Asked if there was a way either of these measures could be speeded up, given the high incidence of FDWs falling seriously ill while in Hong Kong, Cheung said the consulates of the Philippines and Indonesia could consider requiring medical insurance coverage for their workers.


“I think the Consulates have the power to really make a difference here,” he said. “If both consulates require it, it practically becomes a mandate and the government will certainly go by this requirement.”

The issue of providing medical care to foreign domestic workers who remain in Hong Kong despite having their employment visa cut was tabled during the manpower panel meeting in the Legislative Council onApr 19.

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Cheung’s proposal for requiring medical insurance coverage for every FDW who is hired was widely supported his fellow legislators.

“Legislators from different parties all expressed support, even those who are pro-establishment,” he said.

He added that providing medical insurance to FDWs along with employee compensation coverage would not cost much, and should not be such a burden on employers.

Cheung also said he saw no reason why the government should suddenly cut off providing for the medical needs of FDWs once they lose their jobs.

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Unfortunately, he said the two government departments asked about the issue appeared to “pass the ball” to each other. Immigration reportedly said it was a matter for the Hospital Authority to decide, while the latter said they just go by the list provided them on who is entitled to public health care.

“So there is  a phantom person that makes the decision, and I as legislator will have to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “We have to find out who is in charge, who is making that decision.”


Cheung said this was no way to repay FDWs “who are here to work and contribute to Hong Kong in many ways, not just economically.”

He noted the migrant workers have freed up many local women from doing housework so they could pursue their career and work.

“They (FDWs) take care of the sick, the young, the old and disabled, so I don’t see why we couldn’t extend health care to them,” said Cheung.

He also expressed concern that children born in Hong Kong of FDW mothers are also being deprived of public health care, saying this is “inhumane.” 

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