CENTRAL has become more crowded than Causeway Bay during Sundays.
This after Filipino domestic workers outnumbered Indonesians, latest statistics from the Immigration Department showed.
As of September, 152,807 Filipinos accounted for 49 percent of the foreign domestic helper (FDH) population in Hong Kong. Filipinos outnumbered Indonesians with a margin of 1,425. Indonesian workers totaled 151,382.
Completing the total FDH population of 311,453 are 3,102 Thais and 4,162 workers of other nationalities.
In June 2009, younger Indonesian workers started to outnumber the Filipino workers. Indonesians at that time numbered 129,612 while Filipinos totaled 128,630 from the total FDH population of 265,638. Since then, the number of Indonesians steadily increased until it slowed down this year, Immigration statistics showed.
The Court of First Instance’s September 2011 ruling on the FDHs’ bid for permanent residency rights showed that the FDH population increased to 70,335 by the end of 1990 from 28,951 in 1986. In 1974, there were only 881 FDHs here.
With the growing number of Filipino workers likely to continue, Consul General Noel Servigon said the Consulate continues to improve its services.
“We are ready. We always do contingency planning, and regularly institute training programs for our Consulate staff to always improve their services. One priority area is the assistance to nationals,” Servigon said in an interview.
Labor Attache Manuel Roldan said the upward trend in the number of Filipinos coming here to work as domestic workers is likely to continue.
“My projection is the trend will be continuous. This year will be the highest in 15 years of Philippine supply of domestic workers to Hong Kong in terms of difference on a year to year basis. If this trend continues, aabot ang deployment to more than 9,000 by yearend,” Roldan told Hong Kong News.
Citing Philippine government data, Roldan said the highest incremental increase in the number of Filipino domestic workers was recorded in 1993 at 16,300; the figure declined to 15,800 in 1994 and 10,000 in 1995; lowest annual deployment was recorded in 1996 at 3,500.
“So this year, if we end at 9,000, it will be the highest deployment we had in the past 15 years. After 1995, ngayon lang nag-pick up,” the Labor Attache said.
Good or bad
Roldan said there are two sides to the story.
“I would like to look at it as good in terms of opportunities to work abroad given to unemployed Filipinos. But I would rather say this number of workers applying for domestic work may be an indication of no available jobs in the Philippines,” Roldan said.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III earlier announced intensive jobs creation in the Philippines as among his priority goals to prevent more Filipinos from leaving the country.
Roldan said the market for domestic workers in Hong Kong continues to rise and Filipinos are likely to tap this opportunity.
Joseph Law, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers, welcomed the growing number of Filipino workers.
Even as Law tried not to compare the work performance of Filipino and Indonesian workers, he said he had been hiring Filipino workers over the past 35 years.
“I can communicate with Filipinos much better. I speak the language. The communication is important. The culture, core values, religion and habits are closer. With Filipinas, I can always reason out. This never failed in the past 35 years that I have been hiring Filipina workers, I have no complaints with service,” Law said in a separate interview.
Noting that employers clearly choose workers who render better service, Law opined that the trend of having more Filipino workers than Indonesians in Hong Kong is likely to continue.
“I think the trend would continue but nobody can surely tell. It’s easy to imagine, with the negative news reports on either side–that side will be at disadvantage. For example, the murder case in Yuen Long. These are negative news of stealing, killing, hurting people and even putting dirty things in food–all these will have serious impact which may not happen immediately but in due course,” he said.
Law also said employers remain concerned about policy directions from the Philippine and Indonesian governments.
He said the mandatory insurance policy implemented in 2010 only doubled the insurance coverage that employers had to provide for their workers.
“These are the things which will bring negative effects. I can only hope that the Philippine government can pay more attention to reasonable policies which are beneficial to your own people, as well as to the other side. We also want what is fair and affordable to us,” Law said.
“The wage now is $3,920. This will gradually be a heavy burden to some employers. If not careful, and goes up again next year, it will, in a couple of years, affect the growth of jobs,” he added.
Indonesians, meanwhile, are dealing with new recruitment policies as well as the Indonesian government’s latest directive to limit deployment of domestic workers to Hong Kong.
Indonesian Eni Lestari, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, traced the decline in Indonesian domestic workers to new policies outlined in the Ministerial Decree No. 98/2012, issued by the Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar in May 2012, which legalized massive cuts in recruitment fees.
Under the Ministerial Decree, a migrant worker should only pay $13,436 instead of $21,000 before they can work in Hong Kong.
“Employers are required to pay $11,000 to $13,000 to hire an Indonesian worker,” Lestari said.
Reports earlier said the Indonesian government was planning to stop sending workers to Hong Kong if it continues to neglect basic rights of migrant workers.
Reyna Usman, director general for overseas labor placement and protection at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, said Hong Kong, labor agencies and employers failed to honor the ministerial decree.
Lestari said apart from this, the Indonesian government is shifting its direction to other labor-importing countries that don’t require domestic workers.
“The Indonesian government wants to minimize the number of domestic workers (sent to other countries). They want to improve image of Indonesia,” she said, adding sending less domestic workers could mean less cases of abuse.
She stressed the government believes domestic workers are more vulnerable to exploitation so it “does not want to send domestic workers as much as possible, and try to find other types of jobs.”