OWWA: Health Cases For HK OFWs Outnumber Employer Contract Violations in 2018

Health concern among overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong was the most common case handled by the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration last year.

Data obtained by the Hong Kong News indicated there were 213 Filipino workers who sought assistance due to health and medical problems. This topped other issues such as employers violating employment contract obligations (204), personal problems (190) and abuse (105). Other cases OWWA handled also include 25 cases involving problems related to the Immigration Department and 16 for non-payment of wages.

Hypertension and diabetes were the leading health issues OFWs faced, according to labor attache Jalilo dela Torre.

“Yung stroke sa blood pressure din yun. Mataas yung blood pressure at meron ding diabetes,” Dela Torre said in an interview on February 4. Since the beginning of the year, three Filipino workers have died in Hong Kong due to natural causes, an official from the Philippine Consulate General said.

An earlier proposal to require regular medical check up on domestic workers have been shelved amid concerns that employers will terminate maids who are found physically unfit for work.

Other alternatives aimed at ensuring the well-being of domestic workers were also explored, including making food allowance mandatory and providing them with adequate rest. Filipino domestic workers have long complained of long working hours, inadequate accommodation and failure to receive their food allowance.

Officials from Hong Kong’s Labour Department, however, conceded that it is difficult to set working hours for foreign domestic workers since even local employees have no standard working hours imposed by the government.

A survey made by the Research Centre on Migration and Mobility of The Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that migrant domestic workers are “less healthy” compared to local Hong Kong residents due to “poor working conditions.”

The research, which assessed the physical and mental health of migrant domestic workers, showed that 70.6 percent of survey respondents said that they were working more than 13 hours a day.

“While the scores (for physical health) and (mental health) among local adults, according to a survey conducted in 2018, are 51.8 and 55.5 respectively, those of MDWs are 47.1 for (physical health) and 44.7 for (mental health),” the RCMM report said.

It added that 43.9 percent do not have their own private room, 34.6 percent need to work on their day-off, 5.9 percent have no day-off in a week, 23.7 percent do not have a day-off for all statutory holidays, 28.6 percent feel discriminated against, 3.9 percent are physically abused by their employer, 7.3 percent have never received their wage, 8 percent earned less than the statutory monthly required salary, 51.3 percent still have to pay their home agency and 46 percent still have to pay a local agency.

The survey also noted that while most of respondents would approach the Labour Department and Immigration Department for help, one third of the interviewees indicated they could not receive appropriate support.