Foreign domestic workers are an often overlooked part of the Hong Kong landscape. But as COVID-19 continues to spread across the local population, this group is among the most at risk. Since the beginning of the crisis, the 400,000 domestic workers currently living in the city have been subject to new regulations, compromises, travel bans, and contract terminations.
In response to these restrictions is a pronounced shift towards digital solutions.
HelperChoice.com, the leading online platform for the recruitment of domestic helpers, has witnessed a strong increase of its traffic since the implementation of social distancing. New users on the platform jumped up by 150% between late March and early April.
Mahee Leclerc, Head of HelperChoice in Hong Kong, said “Hong Kong residents are limiting unnecessary travels as much as possible right now, most of them are working from home, so it’s logical to switch to an online solution to hire their domestic helper instead of going to an agency.”
According to a study conducted by the platform in December 2019, 84% of migrant workers in Hong Kong use digital tools (such as online transfers or e-wallets) to transfer part of their wages to their country of origin. After months of political turmoil followed by a public health scare, Hong Kongers and foreign domestic workers, who used to favor traditional employment agencies, are now also turning to online services for recruitment – seemingly ushering in a structural change in the industry.
Empowering migrant Filipinos
HelperChoice is part of a community of social impact startups in Hong Kong. The service offers transparent access to the job market and more flexibility for both foreign domestic workers and employers in the city. The team is currently helping hundreds of domestic workers whose contracts have been terminated due to the relocation of their employers amid the Covid-19 crisis, while working on the expansion of their services.
Based on data shared by the company, since January, 92% of the 15,000 applicants looking for a job in Hong Kong were Filipinos.
Of those applicants, 60% had a finished contract, whereas 13% had a terminated contract. Amongst those with terminated contracts, 92% were Filipinos.
Safe and fair working conditions
Technologies like these are mitigating the economic impact of this pandemic among one of Hong Kong’s most at-risk populations, migrant workers.
But HelperChoice has also put in place systems to ensure domestic workers are safe even beyond the current crisis.
HelperChoice provides support to both helpers and employers in order to ensure safe and fair working conditions during the contract of employment. These are guaranteed through the establishment of an ethical charter for all employers. The platform also carries out surveys on working conditions and monitors local regulations to inform domestic helpers of their rights.