‘Flight ban affecting fewer helpers than claimed’

Labour minister Law Chi-kwong on Sunday played down the impact of a two-week travel ban from the Philippines, on local families who have been waiting for foreign domestic helpers from the country, saying the move is holding up far fewer workers than claimed.

In his weekly blog, Law noted that the Union of Employment Agencies had earlier estimated that the flight ban would delay the arrival of as many as 1,800 domestic helpers over the two-week period.

However, he said their estimate was inflated, and only 39 foreign domestic helpers had arrived from the Philippines each day on average before the flight ban took effect on Tuesday last week, meaning the actual number of workers affected would be closer to 546.

Law noted that the number of arrivals had already dropped by around a third since authorities in the Manila area imposed a lockdown at the end of last month.

The government had slapped the two-week ban on flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines after classifying the countries as ones of “extremely high risk”, as authorities here identified highly-infectious variants of the coronavirus in multiple arrivals from the three places.

At the same time, the labour chief acknowledged that the total number of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong has fallen by 30,000 to around 370,000 due to the pandemic and its effects

He said the shortage in helpers have been affecting many local families – especially those who need help to care for young children and the elderly.

Law says he understands the needs of local families, but epidemic control is the government’s top priority.