Foreign domestic helpers suffered a major setback today, March 28, in their fight for permanent residency in Hong Kong after living here for seven consecutive years.
The Hong Kong government won its appeal against a High Court ruling in September 2009 that it was unconstitutional for the government to deny permanent residency to foreign maids even after they have resided in Hong Kong for seven years. This right of residency is enjoyed by other foreigners not employed as domestic helpers.
The government appealed the High Court ruling and obtained a favorable ruling.
Does the Hong Kong government victory mean the end of foreign maids’ fight for permanent residency in this city?
An appeal with Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal (CFA) may be considered as an option by lawyers, representing Filipino maid Evangeline Vallejos, the first of several foreign domestic helpers who are leading the fight for permanent residency for long-staying foreign maids.
If an appeal with the CFA is still an option, it will be best for Filipino DHs in Hong Kong not to have unnecessarily high hopes and expectations of an eventual victory.
It is best to remain calm and simply accept what the ultimate outcome will be.
From all indications, the Hong Kong government will try to move heaven and earth to prevent the estimated 300,000 foreign maids in the city from winning the right to permanent residency.
It’s mainly because Hong Kong’s labor market will certainly be upset or rocked significantly if, say, about 100,000 or 200,000 foreign maids quit household work to seek higher-paying jobs in restaurants and other service-oriented companies or even offices.
This scenario will certainly mean former foreign maids will compete with local Hong Kong Chinese workers for available jobs in the service-oriented companies. Hong Kong Chinese workers will certainly complain with local labor unions and the government against competition to be posed by former foreign maids.
With permanent residency rights, former maids may also bring in their spouses and children to Hong Kong, a scenario that will put lots of pressures on Hong Kong’s government-subsidized health and social services which are already strained.
Foreign maids’ fight for permanent residency isn’t just a question of legalities in Hong Kong courts.
It is more a political issue – a ticklish and sensitive one – from the standpoint of the Hong Kong government and local workers.
Foreign domestics, including OFWs, should tread through this territory cautiously even as they continue to nurture hopes of an eventual breakthrough.