The army of domestic helpers from the Philippines who keep many Hong Kong homes in shape is seeing the first signs that a Manila-imposed law is going to cost jobs.
More than 100 residents have shelved plans to hire helpers, it was claimed yesterday, as a push to revoke a new law on insurance picked up steam.
The effort included the SAR government being urged to negotiate with Manila to revoke the "unnecessary" law because Hong Kong already makes employers obtain insurance cover for workers from overseas.
The law, revealed by Manila last week, makes workers carry policies costing US$144 (HK$1,123) to cover a two- year contract, with premiums paid by employers or recruitment agencies.
Coverage includes US$15,000 for death in an accident, US$10,000 for natural death, and US$7,500 in case of permanent disablement.
There are about 130,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong affected by the law.
About 10 Liberal Party members protested at the Philippine consulate in Admiralty yesterday against the "unnecessary" policy.
Party chairwoman and legislator Miriam Lau Kin-yee said she has submitted an urgent question to the Legislative Council in an attempt to get the SAR government to negotiate with Philippine authorities to revoke the policy, which is like "double insurance."
"The new measure was hastily adopted by the Philippine government with no transparency," Lau said. "The Philippine officials involved have not considered the responses and feelings of overseas employers."
She then said that more than 100 Hong Kong residents who had applied to hire helpers have put plans on hold.
Lau was backed by Joseph Law, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, who said all foreign domestic helpers "are adequately protected by the insurance policies that employers have bought on behalf of their workers."
Under SAR law, about 280,000 employers take out insurance costing about HK$900 every two years.
But many employers have voluntarily purchased comprehensive insurance of about HK$800 to HK$1,000 a year to cover medical expenses on top of compulsory labor insurance, Law said.
He added: "I believe more local employers will hire Indonesian workers instead as they are not willing to pay more - a kind of double taxation."
Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, vice president of General Chamber of Hong Kong Manpower Agencies, said there was shock at the notice from Manila last week about the law and it is coming into force six days earlier than expected. It was supposed to take effect at the end of this week.
Applications of more than 100 helpers set to come to Hong Kong "are being suspended because of the lack of implementation details provided by the Philippine government," she added.
Liu also said it is unclear whether recruitment agencies or employers should pay for the insurance. Her group has about 400 employment agency members.
A Labour Department spokeswoman said the government wants more information from the Philippine consulate.
The consulate did not respond to questions from The Standard.