LCQ20: Support for foreign domestic helpers

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):


     At present, there are some 341 000 foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong, accounting for almost 9% of the workforce and making valuable contributions to the community. Concerning the support for FDHs in Hong Kong, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(1) whether the authorities currently offer shelter services to FDHs in emergency situations; if they do, of the number of such shelters, the capacity of each shelter, and the number of FDHs received by such shelters in the past three years;

(2) whether the authorities offer subsidies or support to charitable or non-governmental organisations for them to provide shelter services for FDHs; if they do, of the number of such organisations and the details of the subsidies or support (in money or in kind) received by such organisations in the past three years;

(3) given that an Indonesian domestic helper was killed by a concrete slab fallen from heights on March 11 last year when she was staying in a temporary hostel provided by an employment agency, whether the authorities have plans to regulate the provision of temporary hostels by employment agencies for FDHs, and step up inspections of such hostels; if they do, of the details of the plans; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) as the authorities operate several centres for FDHs to gather and carry out activities, of the number of applications for the use of such centres in the past three years, and the outcome of the applications; given that quite a number of FDHs congregate in pedestrian precincts, gardens and parks on their rest days, whether the authorities have plans to operate more centres so as to provide FDHs with more places to go on their rest days?

Reply :


     My consolidated reply to the questions raised by Hon Emily Lau is provided below:

(1) and (2)

     The Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides necessary support for those people subjected to domestic violence or sexual violence (including foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong). The SWD-subvented refuge centres for women and the CEASE Crisis Centre provide 24-hour support and short-term accommodation for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and/or those families or individuals in crisis. The Family Crisis Support Centre also provides crisis intervention, counselling and short-term accommodation for people in crisis or distress.

     Currently, there are five refuge centres for women in Hong Kong, providing a total of 260 places. The CEASE Crisis Centre and the Family Crisis Support Centre provide 80 and 40 places respectively. In the past three years, the number of admitted person-times of FDHs of the above centres was set out in the Annex.

     Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charitable organisations can also apply for the rent/rates/government rent subsidy from SWD for their self-financed welfare services. SWD invites applications annually and assesses the applications received in accordance with the stipulated eligibility criteria. According to SWD's record, there has not hitherto been any application under Rent/Rates/Government Rent Subsidy Scheme from organisation for operating shelter for FDHs in Hong Kong.

(3) Anyone who wishes to run an employment agency (EA) must first obtain a licence or a certificate of exemption issued by the Commissioner for Labour pursuant to Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57) and the Employment Agency Regulations (Cap. 57A). The above legislation does not require EAs to provide boarding houses to job-seekers (including FDHs).

     Same as other business entities, EAs that wish to provide temporary accommodation to anyone, have to obtain the relevant licence respectively if the mode of operation of the premises falls within the definition of "hotel" and "guesthouse" or "bedspace apartment" under the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance (Cap. 349) or the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance (Cap. 447).

     If any complaints or reports on unlicensed hotel or guesthouse or bedspace apartment are received, the Office of the Licensing Authority under the Home Affairs Department will investigate and follow up the cases in accordance with the established procedures, and instigate prosecution should there be sufficient evidence. Operating an unlicensed hotel or guesthouse or an unlicensed bedspace apartment is a criminal offence, and the operator is liable, on conviction, to a maximum fine of $200,000 and $100,000 respectively and imprisonment for 2 years, as well as imposition of a criminal record.

(4) According to information from the Home Affairs Bureau, same as other members of the public and/or organisations, individual FDH and/or FDH organisations could, subject to meeting the relevant venue hiring conditions, book different public venues and facilities (such as sports and cultural venues and community hall facilities) from relevant departments for use or organisation of various kinds of activities. The Government currently does not have any plan to provide facilities specifically for FDHs. The Government does not maintain statistics on the usage rate of venues provided to FDH by NGOs.

Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 11:45