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LegCo Secretariat releases Research Brief on "Foreign domestic helpers and evolving care duties in Hong Kong"
The following is issued on behalf of the Legislative Council Secretariat:

     The Legislative Council Secretariat (the Secretariat) today (July 20) released a Research Brief on "Foreign domestic helpers and evolving care duties in Hong Kong", reviewing the trend developments and composition of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) over the past two decades and discussing the changing needs of caring services from local households amidst the ageing trend in society.

     FDHs have formed an integral part of Hong Kong's community since the launch of the policy of admitting FDHs in the early 1970s. In 2016, the presence of about 352 000 FDHs represented 9 per cent of the overall workforce and covered 11 per cent of local households.

     Analysed by ethnic composition, the Philippines remains the largest source of supply of FDHs in Hong Kong, and Indonesia is the second largest supplier. As a whole, these two countries take up more than almost 98 per cent of local supply of FDHs.

     Local employers need to pay FDHs in Hong Kong the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW), which was adjusted upward by 2.4 per cent to HK$4,310 per month in October 2016.  MAW for FDHs in Hong Kong was about 150 per cent and 190 per cent higher than the average local wages in the Philippines and in Indonesia respectively. This helps improve family welfare of FDHs and provide a steady stream of remittance income for their home countries. Furthermore, MAW in Hong Kong is 35 per cent higher than the respective monthly wage earned by FDHs in Singapore. These wage differentials appear to provide continued incentives for FDHs to work in Hong Kong.

     Childcare responsibilities appear to be the primary housework duty of FDHs in Hong Kong at present, with 44 per cent of nuclear families with children and working mothers employing FDHs. With the support of FDHs, local married females are released for productive work in the labour market, raising the living standard of the families and contributing to further development of the local economy.

     As the size of the elderly population in Hong Kong will double to 2.3 million by 2034, there are concerns whether there is enough well-equipped manpower to take care of them. For those elderly households without live-in younger members, there has been a steep rise in the coverage ratio of FDHs for caregiving duties, such as from 2.5 per cent to 9.7 per cent during 1995 and 2016 for singleton households comprising an elderly aged 60 or above. 

     Hong Kong is not alone in facing the manpower shortage of rising care needs of elderly people. In response to the challenge, special subsidies and tailor-made training are provided in the recruitment of FDHs for home-based elderly care in Singapore and Taiwan.  In Singapore, the government has provided a monthly concession of Singapore $205 (about HK$1,152) to families employing FDHs to take care of elderly members since 2004. In Taiwan, similar living allowances are given to the elderly and families in need to reduce their cost of home-based care services provided by FDHs.

     In Japan, robots for the nursing needs and medical care of elderly people are being developed. The Japanese government announced the "New Robot Strategy" in 2015, aiming to develop and apply robots in major fields including nursing and medical care, and to put in practical use of robot technologies in some 100 medical care related devices by 2020.

     This is the fourth issue of the Research Brief for 2016-2017 prepared by the Secretariat's Research Office of the Information Services Division with a view to enhancing information support for Members. It is a concise summary aiming at explaining a subject matter which may be of interest to Members and the general public.

     The Research Brief is now available on the Legislative Council website at www.legco.gov.hk/research-publications/english/1617rb04-foreign-domestic-helpers-and-evolving-care-duties-in-hong-kong-20170720-e.pdf.
Ends/Thursday, July 20, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:35
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