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Include FDHs in consumption voucher scheme, gov’t urged

15 March 2022

 by Leo A. Deocadiz

Some of the domestic helpers who tested positive for Covid-19 and given accommodation by Fr. John Wotherspoon.

When the government starts giving $10,000 to 6.3 million adult residents living in Hong Kong for this year’s Consumption Voucher Scheme, it will leave out residents who have also contributed their own share to the economy: foreign domestic helpers.

A Catholic priest -- a prison chaplain who has also become known for taking care of the homeless and migrant workers in Hong Kong -- has suggested that the helpers also get such financial assistance, which was meant to boost spending on local businesses to help the economy to recover faster.

Fr John says helpers should get at least $5k because they also help the economy going

“Maybe the government should give $5,000 at least to all domestic helpers because they are human beings helping the economy going,” said Fr. John Wotherspoon, OMI, who has also begun taking in helpers who had been thrown out by their employers for testing positive for Covid-19.

“Maybe somebody can lobby for that, for the government to give a little donation to all domestic helpers in the same way that they give $10,000 to all citizens,” he added.


The scheme does not have to include all FDHs, according to Fr. Jun Jacobe, OMI, who coordinates the placement of Covid-19 positive helpers in the government’s quarantine and isolation facilities.

He said that if including all the 350,000 FDHs is not possible, the payments can be limited to those who have been infected with the coronavirus.


He said this act of compassion can be workable, cost a lot less and can be done easily by the Labour Department.

Being thrown out of employers’ homes while sick is illegal and punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, but if a helper files a complaint, it will take too long to get justice. In the meantime, Fr. Jacobe said, the helper will be penniless and has nowhere to go.

Fr Jun says the payments may be limited to those who have been infected with the coronavirus.

After all, FDHs contribute HK$98.9 billion to Hong Kong’s economy every year, or 3.9 per cent of the GDP, according to a study that calculated the cost of their work if paid at local rates, their personal spending, and the time they free up to enable their employers to work.

Childcare alone – valued at HK$40 per hour at an average of 3.85 hours per day -- totals HK$184,970.52 per year, according to the March 2020 report, based on 2018 data calculated by market research firm Frost & Sullivan.


Entitled The Value of Care: Key Contributions of Migrant Domestic Workers to Economic Growth and Family Well-being in Asia, the report was commissioned by consumer credit report company Experian and jointly presented with local NGO Enrich.

Inclusion of FDHs will also satisfy the main requirement that the money be spent locally.


The Consumption Voucher Scheme website states: “In general, consumption vouchers can be used at local retail, catering and service outlets or their online platforms which accept payments by Alipay HK, Octopus, Tap & Go and WeChat Pay HK. Examples include retail shops, market stalls, department stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, fast food shops, coffee shops, recreational facilities, beauty salons, public transport, etc.”

Another study conducted by two Hong Kong-based non-government organizations found that FDHs spend 75% of their income locally, leaving only about HK$1,700 for family remittance and savings out of their minimum monthly pay of $4,310 in 2018.

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“It is estimated that they infuse over $562 million per month or over $6.75 billion per year towards the Hong Kong economy through purchases alone,” said the study, “Where Do Your Wages Go?  A Research on the Expenditures of Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong”, done by the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM).

The 2018 survey, where more than 1000 FDWs were surveyed on how their monthly wage is typically allocated, was a follow-up to a similar study done by the two organizations in 2013 and showed that their local spending had risen by a quarter.


“Contrary to some beliefs that FDWs eat up HK resources, the research revealed that they are significant consumers and patrons of the Hong Kong economy,” the study said. “While they come to Hong Kong to support their families back home, their condition dictates that most of their earnings are spent in HK, and thus contribute to the economic life of the city.”

Cynthia Abdon Tellez, general manager of MFMW, said it would be ideal if the FDHs were treated equally, since they face the same hardships as the locals.

The Mission's Cynthia Abdon Tellez

“Many don’t get provided food and anti-Covid-19 supplies, whose prices are rising,” she said. “And then they are prohibited from earning extra income that would have helped them cope with the additional expenses.”

Eman Villanueva, vice chairman of the Filipino Migrant Workers' Union, said: “We welcome the proposal to include migrant domestic workers (MDW) in the government’s financial support in the form of consumption voucher,”

FMWU's Eman Villanueva

 “The MDW community is one of the many sectors hardest hit by the pandemic’s 5th wave. It is just and appropriate that MDWs be included in the financial aid by the government. Not doing so is discriminatory and exclusionary,” he added.

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