Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hong Kong seeks Cambodian workers

Hong Kong seeks Cambodian workers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (centre) poses for a photograph with Hong Kong’s Labour and Welfare Secretary Stephen Sui (centre left) yesterday after agreeing to start a pilot project to send Cambodian workers to Hong Kong. FRESH NEWS

Hong Kong seeks Cambodian workers

Cambodia and Hong Kong yesterday agreed to start a five-year pilot program to send domestic workers to Hong Kong “very soon”, though experts urged caution, noting that migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong have faced a “slew of abuses”.

The agreement was reached during a meeting in Hong Kong between a delegation led by Cambodian Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng and Hong Kong Secretary of Labour and Welfare Stephen Sui, said Heng Sour, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Labour.

The move comes only months after Hong Kong’s immigration department announced that, effective March 1, the visa requirements for Cambodian nationals would be relaxed and Cambodians would be able to apply for employment, investment, training and study schemes.

“The first employment sector that Hong Kong will provide to Cambodian nationals is domestic helper,” Sour said, adding that both countries “acknowledged the mutual benefit of hosting and sending the domestic helpers”.

Hong Kong doesn’t have a quota system for foreign domestic workers, leaving the matter up to the employers, but both sides agreed to start with a five-year pilot project that’s expected to send workers to Hong Kong “very soon”, Sour said.

Hong Kong’s Labour and Welfare Department didn’t respond to a request for comment. Moeun Tola, head of labour rights group Central, said the Cambodian government needed to learn from a similar 2013 pilot scheme to send domestic helpers to Singapore, which was criticised for being opaque, and for sending workers abroad with inadequate training.

“At the end of the day, it resulted in many violations due to the language barriers and cultural differences,” he said. “We need to look back at the experience with Singapore.”

Singapore’s pilot program had attempted to avoid a repeat of widespread severe abuses against Cambodian maids in Malaysia, which led to a 2011 ban on sending maids there.

Even so, in 2015, Singapore-based worker welfare group Transient Workers Count Too wrote the program off as a “failure” due to concerns over poor working conditions and, in some cases, abuse.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said “migrant domestic workers have faced a slew of abuses in Hong Kong, including violence and sexual abuse”, as well as difficulties getting paid.

“The Cambodian government needs to demonstrate that it has the political will and organisation capacity to protect [its] migrant workers when they go overseas,” he wrote in an email. “This will require commitment to protect rights that Cambodia has so far totally lacked in its sending of workers overseas.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,