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FDW job losses spiked in Dec, govt figures show

07 January 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao

Bangcawayan says many workers have asked the Mission's help in computing claims

The two-month rebound in the number of foreign domestic workers finding jobs in Hong Kong ended last month, figures from the Immigration Department show.

By end of December, a total of 1,275 Filipino domestic workers became jobless, reversing an upward trend that started in the August to September period, when a record 2,372 new jobs were created.

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Esther Bangcawayan, a case officer at Mission for Migrant Workers, said that the increase in job losses has been evident in the number of workers seeking their help in calculating claims from their employers.

Many cases involved job terminations by either side, often due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fear of acquiring Covid-19 while in Hong Kong was reportedly cited by most workers as the reason why they decided to terminate their contracts. The workers were driven by concern over their health, and for those aged 50 and above, by the decision to return home for good.

Employers, on the other hand, often cut short their contracts with their helpers due to job loss, work relocation or, for expatriates, the desire to return to their home countries.

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Bangcawayan said the Mission noted the trend starting towards the last quarter of 2020. Those who sought help in computing their entitlements were a mix of terminated, separated or finished-contract workers.

Some of them were returning home, others were preparing to exit, while there were also those who switched employers two or three times during the usual contract period of two years.

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On the part of the employers, some dismissed their workers because of financial constraints, often without a warning. She cited the case of a helper who was abruptly told on Jan.5 by her employer of three years and 11 months that she needed to find a new job.

“Look for a new employer if you want to continue working in Hong Kong because my husband and I will be going back to China and he will be working there,” the helper was reportedly told.

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Bangcawayan said the employer lost his job and his wife, a teacher, had been doing work from home since June due to the pandemic, but appeared to have become jobless as well.

Michel's last termination came without warning after just 2 weeks

Among those who were terminated was Michel T. Agustin, 40, a mother of four from Solana, Cagayan. In one year and five months she had had three employers, the latest one for just two weeks, before she got fired in November.

She said her first employer was a sickly 75-year-old bachelor in Wanchai who fell ill and became bedridden. The children took him to a hospital and after that, they decided to put him up in a nursing home. Her contract was terminated after five months.

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Agustin found a new employer in Kowloon, a local family with three teenage children. She had worked there for just 7 months when the female employer told her one day that she was being terminated without any reason.

“The employer told me she just wanted to let me go and gave me one month to find a new employer,” she said.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

She found a third employer, a Mandarin-speaking woman who fired her after just two weeks due to supposedly unsatisfactory performance. She did not give her a release letter but paid a month’s salary in lieu of notice.

On the flipside is Arlyn E. Macadenden, 45, a mother of two from San Fernando, La Union, who decided to serve a notice of termination on Nov 4 after working for her employer for 11 months.

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She cited as reasons her employers being heavy smokers, her lady boss constantly shouting at her, and her being made to serve four persons instead of the three stated in the contract. But the clincher was her being made to carry heavy stuff up the employers’ third-floor walk-up flat on Hei Wo St in North Point.

Arlyn quit after being made to carry furniture up a third-floor walkup flat

Macadenden said her worst experience was having to carry up the narrow, spiral stairway a cabinet the employer had ordered and was delivered only on the sidewalk.

“She told me to dismantle the cabinet and carry the parts piece by piece. They were so heavy that my wrists ached,” she said, showing her slightly swollen wrists.

She said she lost much of her hands’ strength that while carrying her employer’s year-old baby once, she nearly dropped him. That terrified her. 

She told the employer she was quitting because could no longer carry heavy loads up the stairs. The employer bought her a plane ticket and told her before she left the flat on Dec 4 that if she wanted to return, she would be welcome.

Agustin and Macadenden have both found new employers for whom, they hoped, they would get better treatment and a more secure job.

Both were lucky. If their contracts were terminated after Dec 30, they would not have been allowed to remain in Hong Kong and move to a new job.  As of that date, Immigration has resumed its hardline policy of allowing terminated FDWs to stay for only 14 days before returning to their home country.

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