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Phl agencies sent 80% fewer DHs to HK last year amid pandemic

06 March 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Filipino workers lining up at Polo: Actual drop in their numbers in HK was just 7%

Deployment of Filipino domestic helpers to Hong Kong took a deep dive of nearly 80% last year due to several factors that were mostly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration database show only 32,263 workers were deployed by Philippine recruitment agencies to Hong Kong last year, down sharply from the 159,107 deployed in 2019.

But the drop of 126,844 refers only to Filipino DHs who did not pass through agencies in the Philippines, largely as a result of Hong Kong’s policy shift last year that allowed terminated workers to remain here and process new work contracts.

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The actual drop in the number of Filipino DHs working here last year was only more than 15,000, according to Hong Kong Immigration figures, accounting for just about 7.5% of the total workforce.

And there are already signs of improvement with the number of Filipino DHs rebounding to 206,481 in February, as 1,700 of them arrived in Hong Kong within the month.

The big drop was in the number of Filipino DHs who left the Phl amid the pandemic

The Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, which shared the POEA data, described the shrinkage in deployment from the Philippines as “shocking.”

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Thomas Chan, president of the HKUEA, cited the following as possible contributing factors:

·      Greatly reduced recruitment in the Philippines due to lockdown in many areas outside of Manila;

 ·      Drop in demand in Hong Kong for Filipino due to the high costs of agency fee, swab test and 21-day quarantine imposed on employers;

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·       Employers’ worry that the workers would test positive on arrival, prompting them to hire those who were already in Hong Kong

·       Lengthier processing of work contracts in the Philippines, which led to lots of visas being cancelled because employers could not wait.

The POEA statistics showed that rehires, who make up the bulk of the deployed workforce, shrank to  as low as 18,923 last year from 113,630 a year earlier.


Again, this just indicates the huge number of FDHs in Hong Kong who were able to process new work contracts on site without having to return to the Philippines and go through agencies again after being terminated.

The so-called “agency hires”, or those who left the Philippines to work in Hong Kong for the first time, slipped from 45,443 in 2019 to 13,336 last year. 

This was the result of intermittent lockdowns between Metro Manila and the provinces, and the tightening of restrictions for travel to Hong Kong.

There were only four “direct” hires – or those who did not go through recruitment agencies - last year, compared with 34 a year earlier.



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