2015 Report: HKCTU's Training and Job Placement Service for Domestic Workers in Hong Kong
HONG KONG -
In 1996, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions Training Centre (CTUTC) started offering courses for potential domestic workers. The classes quickly expanded amid government support for boosting jobs in the field for unemployed women with less education. CTUTC had great success providing accreditation for trainees and later matching them with decently paid jobs. From 2002 to 2014, the center matched trainees with over 30,000. From this network of domestic workers the Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union (DWGU) was founded in 2001 as one of HKCTU’s 90 affiliates.
Government support contributed to the success of CTUTC’s training program for domestic workers. As joblessness rose after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, policy makers sought to boost employment among low-income women by expanding the market of domestic work, which was already prevalent in Hong Kong. The government helped facilitate job referrals, standardized training requirements and provided travel subsidies for certain domestic workers.
As an accredited training center under the Employees Retraining Board (ERB), CTUTC began providing domestic work courses in 1996. The curriculum emphasizes practical skills as well as behavioral aspects, which were critical since many of the trainees were new to the workforce. The training also covered issues of labor rights, including occupational health and safety and the employment status of domestic helpers.
Required by the government to help at least 70% of trainees find jobs, CTUTC also had to run a job placement service. In addition, in 2002, it also won the contract to run the government’s job matching center in New Territories East, which extended CTUTC’s placement services beyond its own trainees. From 2002 to 2014, this particular center alone matched 19,287 decent domestic jobs for CTUTC trainees or 30,945 in total.
Apart from cultivating a network of potential employers, in order to expand the market for domestic work, CTUTC seized various opportunities to spotlight its value. It sent trainees to baby fairs, distributed flyers before Chinese New Year to take advantage of the “spring cleaning” custom, and promoted proper cleaning techniques amid the SARS epidemic in 2003.
But CTUTC wasn’t just about helping trainees find jobs. It also aimed at helping them find jobs with decent wages and working conditions. This is where DWGU, the union, comes in. With its support, CTUTC has helped provide a living income to these previously unemployed women, who as domestic workers are paid 2 to 4 times more than the statutory minimum wage.
Since domestic workers work in private homes scattered across the city and are often considered an informal workforce, labor laws are harder to enforce. For instance, many employers of domestic workers are not aware that they, like all other employers, are required to take out labor insurance. For years, DWGU lobbied the Labour Department to enforce the ordinance in the case of domestic helpers. In 2006, DWGU and CTUTC succeeded in making all 13 service centers under the ERB require that employers comply before the accepting job referrals.
The success of the domestic working training program at CTUTC is a win-win situation for all: Low-skilled women are organized and able to find decent jobs as domestic workers, while the families that employ them can enjoy quality, reliable services, which often means more people, especially women, can be freed to work and contribute to the economy.
Story Type: News