By Marita Moaje

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – An exploratory talk on the possible deployment of caregivers and assisted care workers to Hong Kong is set to be held between the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and its counterparts in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HK-SAR).

Undersecretary for Policy and International Cooperation Patricia Yvonne Caunan will lead the DMW team that will leave for Hong Kong next month.

In a press release on Thursday, DMW Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople said a bilateral meeting was held on Monday (Jan. 9), with Hong Kong Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun.

“This would provide additional job opportunities for our caregivers, under conditions that value their skills and are cognizant of their rights and welfare,” Ople said.

She said that the Hong Kong government expressed willingness to fast-track the hiring of as many as 7,000 foreign workers.

Sun said that due to Hong Kong’s aging population, there is a growing need for workers in both private and government-subsidized care homes and assisted care facilities.

In Dec. 13 last year, the Hong Kong Executive Council passed a resolution approving the direct hiring of foreign caregivers and reducing the processing period of a regular application from three to four months to only two months.

The opening up of Hong Kong to Filipino caregivers will help address its acute manpower shortage, most especially for assisted care workers.

Hong Kong is home to about 211,514 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), mostly working as domestic workers in households, according to the 2022 first-semester data from the Hong Kong Immigration Authority (HKIA).

Among the concerns being looked at by DMW include the language barrier that needs to be addressed as most of Hong Kong’s elderly only speak Cantonese.

Meanwhile, the proposed salary range for caregivers and assisted care workers is from 12,000 Hong Kong dollars to 20,000 Hong Kong dollars or from PHP85,000 to PHP140,000.

Moreover, the latest wage and food allowance hike in Hong Kong that took effect in October last year pegged the new monthly Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) to 4,730 Hong Kong dollars, or PHP35,475, while the minimum allowable food allowance is 1,196 Hong Kong dollars or PHP8,970 per month.

Ople expressed to Sun the Philippine government’s appreciation for the initiatives of the Hong Kong government in ensuring the protection of the rights and welfare of OFWs.

She also proposed the adoption of collaborative campaigns between the DMW and the Hong Kong government to inform OFWs of their rights as migrant workers and how to seek assistance from authorities when they are in distress. (PNA)