domestic helpers

“HK government treats domestic workers as social benefits”


Anyone who has been to Hong Kong should be familiar with the image of crowds of Filipinas and Indonesians filling the streets every Sunday.

But if the controversial abode law is finally passed, this could all change.

Last Wednesday, a second judge ruled to uphold September’s verdict, giving Evangline Vallejos permanent resident status, after 25 years working in Hong Kong.

Domestic Workers have become a fundamental part of most families in Hong Kong, enabling both parents to work, whilst the children and elderly are cared for at home.

But they are currently the only group who do not have the right of abode, while other nationalities can gain it after 7 years.

Aaron Ceradoy from the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant Workers tells us that it is wrong to manipulate the rights of domestic workers for the benefit of others.

He continues, “The Hong Kong government treats foreign domestic workers as social benefits for the local people.”

The Hong Kong immigration office has reported a surge in the number of applications for permanent residency status in the past month, from 1 per month to 20.

But the human rights lawyer Mark Daly, who represented the Evangeline Vallejos in the controversial abode case last month, doubts the Immigration department’s figures.

16,000 signatures were collected last week in protest of the potential abode law passing, and thousands of protesters marched from Wanchai to the Tamar government site in Central to show their outrage.

A research recently carried out by the Mission for Migrants showed that only 54% of the domestic workers in Hong Kong are eligible for permanent residency.


Abode changes threaten status quo

The proposed changes to the abode law for domestic workers in Hong Kong have not only intensified fears amongst Chinese locals, but also non-Chinese locals. Domestic workers have become embedded in Hong Kong society, as locals who work long hours rely on them to look after children and the elderly. The predominantly Filipino and Indonesian group are not entitled to earn the minimum wage and currently have a near-impossible route to gaining citizenship.

For other ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, making up approximately 5% of the population, this change could mean a negative change in the status quo. Local Indians for example, who came to Hong Kong during British rule, traditionally worked as police. More recently they are bound to jobs in security and delivery driving. If the abode law falls through, Filipinos, with their generally higher level of education, could push other local minorities into the bar and catering sectors, generally dominated by Filipinos. Due to language and cultural differences, it is difficult for non-Chinese locals to succeed in professions other than these.