The LegCo 2016 - 2017 Issue No. 4 Report has highlighted on evolving duties of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and the fact that they are increasingly employed by elderly households. The change can be explained by growing numbers of single elderlies and the fact that it’s uncommon for married sons and daughters to look after their aged parents in Hong Kong as they do not live together. With declining birth rate and longer longevity, elderly population will account for 30% of overall proportion by 2034.
It is clear that the demand for elderly caretakers will continue to increase. Other issues, shrinking productive workforce and burden on medical systems, are also foreseeable. Caretakers in Hong Kong are expensive and hard to come by. On the other hand, elderly homes have been notorious for their negligence and ill-treatment of elders.
Unfortunately, our government has no intentions to nip the problem in the bud. Policy Address 2018 is, in my opinion, an ambitious construction project proposal without revolutionary solutions to social issues. It is obligatory for the government to tackle foreseeable issues of an ageing population fundamentally. Drastic measures have to be implemented to promptly before negative impacts creep up on our society.
On one hand, more resources should be allocated to train local medical professionals and caretakers as more age-related diseases will plague the population. The government should also explore the possibility of training FDWs to be eligible caretakers to look after seniors 24/7 and assist them in daily life. First of all, imported labour incurs lower costs and makes caretaking services more affordable to the general public. Training FDWs with caretaking qualifications, basic medical knowledge and first aid skills empowers them with greater capacity in their daily job duties. Improvement in qualifications of FDWs operates in the interests of both parties. Currently, the Singaporean government offers Caregivers Training Grant to encourage employers to equip their FDHs with better elderly care skills, which I believe the HKSAR government can take a step further
The upcoming motion picture “Still Human” describes the relationship between a single man in wheelchair and his domestic worker. Apart from taking care of his daily lives, she also plays a key role to accompany him through his loneliness and depression. Emotions and depression are often overlooked in the case of seniors, whose well-being encompasses both physical and emotional health. Depictions in this movie are worth our attention.
Perhaps FDWs could do so much for Hong Kong people and we lack the respect to acknowledge their tremendous contribution to our flourishing economy.
(Movie Poster of Still Human, Source: Facebook of HKAFF)