Foreign domestic workers are helping to release mothers in Hong Kong to return to the workforce. Photo: Asia Times.

Foreign domestic workers have contributed to Hong Kong’s economy over the past two decades by helping citizens be free to work, according to a research report from the Legislative Council Secretariat published on Thursday.

Over the last 20 years, the number of domestic workers in Hong Kong has increased from 200,000 to 352,000. About 54% of maids in the city are from the Philippines, while 44% are from Indonesia. The remaining two percent have come from Asian countries including India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The percentage of women in the workforce has surged by 7 percentage points to 54.8 percent over that period, showing that foreign domestic workers have helped many “mums” have longer careers.

“Foreign domestic workers are releasing married females for productive work in the economy,” the report says. “Releasing local married females for productive work can enhance the living standard of their families and contribute to the development of the local economy.”

Filipino maids also contributed to their home countries because a fair chunk of their salaries was sent back to the Philippines. It was estimated that Filipino domestic workers’ remittance income surged by 76% within a decade to 11.1 billion peso (US$218.7 million) in 2016, the report said.

However, the respective contribution from Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong could not be quantified due to the absence of relevant data.

Rising demand for maids as population ages

The report also said that the Singaporean and Taiwan governments offer subsidies or a tax allowance to families who hire domestic workers to take care of their elderly. The two governments also provide extra nursing training to foreign domestic workers.

It suggested teaching foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong basic skills for taking care of the elderly, given predictions that the city’s elderly population will double to 2.3 million by 2034.

The aging population posed a big manpower challenge and there are concerns about whether foreign maids or domestic workers have received sufficient training to provide long-term care and support for elderly citizens who may need medical and nursing care, the report said.

According to Oriental Daily, Lam Ching-choi, chairman of the Elderly Commission, was quoted as saying that the Commission will study possible government subsidies for families that hire domestic workers for elderly care in the future. But Lam did not comment further.

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