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Agency union urges HK to lift travel ban for vaccinated FDHs

11 July 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao

The agency union says HK families are 'suffering' because of the ban

One of Hong Kong’s associations of employment agencies is pressing the government to allow a “travel bubble” for fully vaccinated foreign domestic helpers from the Philippines and Indonesia so they can come and start working for their waiting employers.

The Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies said in a press conference held earlier today, Jul 11, that local families are suffering because of the ban imposed on travelers from the two countries, both of which have been classified by the government as “extremely high-risk” countries for Covid-19.


The ban on passenger flights from the Philippines was imposed on Apr 20 after a number of travelers from there tested positive on arrival in Hong Kong. The ban on Indonesia took effect only on Jun 25, in the wake of a number of passengers arriving from there with the mutant strain of the coronavirus.

HKUEA chair Thomas Chan said the union had been writing to Chief Executive Carrie Lam since April to get the ban lifted for incoming FDHs but has yet to receive a reply.

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Another union officer, Gilbert Ho, said that a recent survey conducted recently by his group among their clients found that around 1,000 domestic helpers are stranded in the Philippines and Indonesia due to the flight ban.

“With about three or four associations in Hong Kong, we anticipate there are over 5,000 helpers who are stranded since the suspension mechanism was in place from April for the Philippines and from June for Indonesia. These numbers will just keep on increasing,” Ho said.


He said the number could rise to 5,500 of or 6,000 next month since there are a lot of applications in place. This situation has made the local market “very, very hot for domestic helpers,” Ho said.

He said the HKUEA is hoping the government will allow in helpers who have been vaccinated twice 14 days before departure, have tested negative for the virus no later than 72 hours before boarding, and test negative again on arrival test and during quarantine.


He said that helpers have to do a lot of paper work before they can even get the all-clear to leave for Hong Kong. During their long wait, other problems may arise, such as when their employment visas expire.

Ho said many helpers are now pushing their agencies in the Philippines to get them to leave immediately, or they would go to other countries where they are allowed in, like the Middle East. That could lead to problems for employers who are willing to wait, and have already paid the agency fees.


Due to the shortage of workers now, many FDHs who are already in Hong Kong have become choosy, said the union, preferring families with just a couple and a child, or better yet, a childless couple.

On the other hand, some employers have reportedly been wooing helpers on the streets or online with more attractive salary offers than the $4,630 minimum pay.

Tony Chan says his helper left his family because she didn't want to take care of their baby

Tony Chan, vice chairman of HKUEA, complained that some workers do not realize the inconvenience they cause a family with a baby when they leave their employers just because they are allowed to process new employment contracts without having to go back to their home countries.

Chan said he experienced this himself, when a helper left their household because she found another employer who didn’t have a baby.

Ho said it’s not just local families who are affected by the pandemic-related travel restrictions. Since the more stringent restrictions took effect last year, about 40% of the estimated 800 agencies deploying workers from the Philippines and Indonesia have gone out of business.

He warned that more will fold up if the flight ban continues. 




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