Updated: Nov 26, 2018
The majority, if not all, Filipino Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) that come to Hong Kong (HK) are in search of a better life and more opportunities for their families and for their future. As many FDWs come from underprivileged backgrounds, it is not uncommon for FDWs to obtain loans before or after arriving to HK due to expenses such as visas, flights or illegal agency fees. Plus, after FDWs have received their first month’s wages, the law in HK requires a maximum 10% payment to their Employment Agencies (if applicable). This means that many FDWs are in debt while working in HK.
In light of this, in October 2018, a new bill - the Social Security Act 2018 - was passed by the Philippines legislature which includes a provision providing mandatory Social Security System (SSS) coverage for all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). This social insurance provided through the system will cost approximately 2,400PHP or about HK$350 a month. This bill also requires all departing overseas workers to pay at least three-monthly contributions before they can leave for their job. This all accumulates to a very substantial amount of money that OFWs will have little choice but to pay into.
Although this system provides for retirement and health benefits when workers return to the Philippines, it can also be considered as another burden. This is because many FDWs already struggle with paying existing fees and now they are faced with further expenses and further ones in discussion. It is unfair to impose further costs. Paying into this SSS will potentially leave FDWs with little option but to lend more money from third-parties and push workers into further debt and despair. Although HK has ethical money lenders like Lender Friend, many are unaware of these types of lenders and are desperate so instead borrow money with high-interest rates which can lead to exploitation. This new provision suggests that there is little consideration for FDWs and the financial struggles they already face. It also discourages individuals to work abroad because it is getting more expensive and troublesome to do so.
However, as the bill is yet to be enforced, the actual implications and practicality of this bill is still unclear. For now, until the bill is official in law, FDWs can petition to oppose it.
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