OFW health problems top OWWA welfare cases in HK
THE Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) handled more cases of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong getting sick than welfare cases involving employers violating their contract obligations last year.
The OWWA data for the whole year of 2018 showed that 213 OFWs sought assistance due to health and medical problems compared to 204 welfare cases for contract violations, 190 for personal problems, and 105 for maltreatment.
The OWWA also handled 25 welfare cases involving Immigration problems and 16 cases for delayed or non-payment of salaries.
Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre said the leading health cases involving OFWs that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office monitored included high blood pressure and diabetes.
“Yung stroke sa blood pressure din yun. Mataas yung blood pressure at meron ding diabetes,” Dela Torre said in an interview on February 4.
As of February 14, three overseas Filipino workers have died here in HK due to natural causes since the new year, a consulate official said.
Besides the two domestic workers who died on February 2 and February 3, another OFW died in January, the official added.
The Philippine Consulate General (PCG) had previously asked the Hong Kong government to require annual medical check-ups for foreign domestic workers.
Dela Torre had also said they would continue to ask the HK government to make the food allowance for foreign domestic workers mandatory and to ensure that FDHs get enough rest. Filipino domestic workers had long complained of long working hours and not getting their food allowance.
But in a meeting with PCG officers last year, Labour Department officials noted the difficulty of setting fixed working hours for foreign domestic helpers since even local employees had no standard working hours.
“They added that it is hard to quantify the working time of an FDH in a household setting,” the PCG said.
“(PCG’s) counter-proposal to LD’s concern is to specify in the attachment to the FDH contract the staggered work schedule of the helper, e.g. for 10-hour-a-day work, 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.,” it added.
The LD said they would encourage employers to be “more humane and considerate” in providing sufficient rest to their helpers. It also vowed to step up its education campaign for employers.
On Feb. 13, the Research Centre on Migration and Mobility (RCMM) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) released the results of its survey which showed that migrant domestic workers (MDWs) are “less healthy” compared to local Hong Kong residents due to their “poor working conditions.”
The results showed that 70.6 percent of survey respondents said that they were working more than 13 hours a day.
“When compared with local residents, MDWs are less healthy, probably due to their bad work conditions,” a statement from the research centre said.
It said the survey assessed the physical and mental health of MDWs and the results showed that migrant domestic workers scored lower when compared to local residents.
“While the scores (for physical health) and (mental health) among local adults, according to a survey conducted in 2018, are 51.8 and 55.5 respectively, those of MDWs are 47.1 for (physical health) and 44.7 for (mental health),” the centre said.
“After adjusting for confounding factors, the result showed that never receiving wages on time, working on days off, and paying agency fees led to a lower (physical health) score; while not receiving wages on time, feel discriminated against and physical abuse by the employer led to a lower (mental health) score,” it added.
The survey was conducted from May to September 2017 by the RCMM research team, which interviewed 2,017 MDWs from the Philippines and Indonesia.
RCMM said the results showed that the employment conditions for MDWs in Hong Kong remained “poor.”
It said 43.9 percent do not have their own private room, 70.6 percent work over 13 hours per day, 34.6 percent need to work on their day-off, 5.9 percent have no day-off in a week, 23.7 percent do not have a day-off for all statutory holidays, 28.6 percent feel discriminated against, 3.9 percent are physically abused by their employer, 7.3 percent have never received their wage, 8 percent earned less than the statutory monthly required salary, 51.3 percent still have to pay their home agency and 46 percent still have to pay a local agency.
The survey showed that 70 percent of MDWs would approach their consulate, the Labour Department and employment agencies, for contract-related issues, while they would approach “an informal supportive network mainly for emotional support.”
“More than 50 percent of the interviewees think their friends in Hong Kong could provide emotional support, but more than 60 percent of them indicated they would not talk to friends about financial matters.
Thus, there is a clear differentiation between help seeking channels,” it said.
The survey also noted that while most of the interviewees would approach the Labour Department and Immigration Department for help, one third of the interviewees indicated they could not receive appropriate support.
“Only four percent of the interviewees would approach social workers when they encounter any problem. This shows that they are not familiar with existing dedicated services for MDWs provided by the social service organisations, which aim to providing a holistic one-stop service for MDWs,” the statement said.
“The lack of awareness on the possibility of seeking help from these dedicated service units could lead to fragmented and insufficient support for MDWs,” it added.