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Filipino DH population grows marginally, but firings continue

22 April 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The slight increase hardly fills the gap left by the February job losses

The number of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong has grown slightly over the past month, after a massive drop of more than 2,000 in February.

At the end of March, the total number of Filipino helpers was 218,002. This compares with 217,654 in February, and 219,728 in January.

The big drop in February followed a Philippine ban on outbound travel for Hong Kong which lasted more than two weeks, and the start of the spread of Covid-19 in the city.
Last month’s increment of 348 is still a long way off from filling the big gap left by the massive job losses in February. 

This is because, according to data from various migrant support organizations, terminations of work contracts are happening on a daily basis, as employers lose their jobs, or are forced to close shop due to the economic slump.

Two of the groups that have been at the receiving end of complaints from Filipino workers who have lost their jobs are the church-based Mission for Migrant Workers and the online group, Domestic Workers’ Corner.

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Officers at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office are, however, tight-lipped about the actual termination numbers. While they admit that there have been terminations, they say they can’t provide accurate figures because, accordingly, not all terminated workers report to them.

“Of course, we do receive reports from terminated workers, but the incidence is at usual levels,” one officer said.

The new labor attaché, Melchor Dizon, has not been forthcoming, either, saying all requests for information from his office should be directed to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

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But earlier on, welfare officer Marivic Clarin told The SUN in an interview that some employers who got paranoid over the coronavirus epidemic fled Hong Kong to escape the contagion, and dismissed their helpers in the process.

And most recently, Consul General Raly Tejada had said in an interview that 70 Covid-related firings had been reported to the Consulate, which gave them assistance.
This OFW with luggage was terminated on the spot in February amid the spread of the coronavirus
Among those who recently lost their jobs was Nanay Emie, who was terminated on Mar 31 by her American employer who relocated back to the United States.

Fortunately, the 55-year-old woman was given long service pay for her 10 years of service, and eventually managed to find another employer willing to sign her up.
Her case is the exception, however, as more often that not, a terminated worker gets only her regular salary plus a month’s pay in lieu of notice, before being left to seek another employer amid the trying times.

Worse, some are taken directly to the airport, giving them no chance to look for another employment, contrary to Hong Kong’s laws.

As of this writing, several workers who have just lost their jobs are seeking help for possible referrals from DWC's  Help Group. 

Some of those who reached out to the group have complained of their employers trying to exploit the tight situation by abusing them further.

One helper said she was given a “one-month” written notice of termination effective May 16, but was told orally to move out on Apr 25. Worse, the South Asian employer reportedly insisted the maid can’t claim unpaid annual leave because, accordingly, she had Sunday days off. 

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