China is considering allowing Filipino domestic workers to take up employment in five of its cities, a move that NGO Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body said could lower the competitiveness of Hong Kong as a destination for workers.

Philippines’ Labour Undersecretary Dominador Say met with Chinese officials earlier this month to discuss the proposal, according to Philippines news outlets on Monday. Say said that the Chinese took into account Filipino’s “peaceful” nature, as well as their English proficiency, meaning they can assist children with their studies.

domestic worker helper
File photo: Robert Godden.

Beijing and Shanghai are among the cities which may be covered by the proposal, The Philippine Star reported, and Chinese officials are looking at the possibility of a monthly wage level of 100,000 Philippine pesos (around HK$15,400) for the workers.

‘Added value’

Eman Villanueva of the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body told HKFP that if the pay did in fact reach that amount, it would attract a lot of interest amongst Filipino domestic workers – both newcomers and those who were already in Hong Kong – as it was logical for economic migrants to head to places where they can earn more.

“Many of the workers in Hong Kong mostly treat Hong Kong as a place where they can earn [money]; once they have earned enough, they would like to go home… If it is true that they can earn three times as much in China, that means they can be reunited with their families much more quickly.”

Villanueva also said that the proposal would affect the competitiveness of Hong Kong, where “the pay is [low], the working hours are long, and the working conditions are not so ideal. So if there is an added value and more advantage in remuneration for working in China, it will affect Hong Kong.” He added that it could be detrimental to the city, given its ageing population and the demand for domestic workers who can take care of the elderly.

Domestic workers in protest
Domestic workers at a protest. Photo: Robert Godden.

Villanueva said that it is a wake up call for the Hong Kong government to review its pay level, and to improve its working conditions.

“I hope that this development will trigger some reaction from the Hong Kong government and employers as well to [recognise] that Hong Kong is becoming more and more uncompetitive as a labour market for domestic workers.”

However, he also expressed concern over whether labour laws could adequately protect migrant workers in China, as well as whether diplomatic staff and embassies were well-trained enough to cope with potential rising complaints from domestic workers. “In Hong Kong many of them are treated like slaves, and it is already one of the more sophisticated destination[s] for domestic workers.”

Technic Employment Service Centre managing director Teresa Liu Tsui-Lan told RTHK on Tuesday morning that, since last year, five cities in China have already allowed those from Hong Kong and overseas working in China to hire domestic workers from Hong Kong.

She said Hong Kong was not very demanding with regards to the requirements towards domestic workers, but employers in China would want Filipino domestic workers to teach their children English, and workers in Hong Kong often only have an average command of English. Liu added that aside from the salary, there were few benefits of working in China.

Karen cheung hong kong

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.