Some facts about Hong Kong - jobs, treatment of Filipinos, exchange rate and currency, public transport system to go around, weather in Hong Kong - will help you adjust as an Overseas Filipino Worker.
Some questions may be in your mind. Where is Hong Kong located? Is Hong Kong in China? Is Hong Kong a country? But I'm sure the answers will not sway your desire to work in this autonomous region of China.
Better paying jobs, even for domestic or household service workers, are a good motivation.
The Hong Kong economy is one of the strongest in the region and in the world. Its banking and financial sectors give way to the rising living standards. That is why the Hong Kong population can afford to hire domestic workers.
Filipinos in Hong Kong work mainly as household workers. Minimum wage is HK$4,110 or close to 25,000 pesos a month. This is more than twice the minimum wage in Metro Manila and higher than what most office workers, teachers and nurses receive.
Filipinos have surpassed Indonesians as having the most number of domestic workers despite the direct-hire ban. You have to apply to a recruitment agency. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) re-imposed a direct hiring ban in Hong Kong in January 2009.
POEA said the ban would protect the rights and welfare of OFWs. Workers' groups would like the ban lifted. They argue that employers and workers could lawfully process their own employment contracts without going through employment agencies.
OFWs in Hong Kong suffer abuses, poor working conditions and other problems due to lack of information about or courage to assert their rights.
Professionals and other workers may apply under the General Employment Policy or GEP. You must possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to or not readily available in Hong Kong. This requires a confirmed offer to work from an employer. Read here to look for more jobs at the POEA website.
Prepare for some racial slurs and biases. Employers do not treat their house help the same. OFWs face unfair treatment in the Mass Transit Railway or MTR, shopping areas or other places simply because of the color of their skin.
A column by columnist Chip Tsao calling the Philippines "a nation of servants" in March 2009 sent thousands of Filipinos in the streets. The protest was a show of force against the racial overtones of the article and insult to Filipinos, both living in Hong Kong and abroad.
You may call it part of the culture of Hong Kong, but I'm sure majority of the people there do not share these views. There is also an anti-racism law aiming for racial equality to all people in Hong Kong. It makes discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of race a crime. Here must enforcement come in.
The Hong Kong currency is the Hong Kong Dollar. It is pegged or has a fixed value to the US Dollar. But the Hong Kong Dollar exchange rate to the Philippine Peso fluctuates because of many factors. And it is good if you get higher peso equivalent.
The city's transport system, both public and private, is highly developed. The Hong Kong MTR is the common mode of public transport. The Octopus card, a stored value smart card payment system, enhanced the ease of commuting with the MTR.
You can use the MTR even upon arrival at the Hong Kong airport. Its 150 stations make it easier to go around the territory. You can find your way going to Hong Kong Ocean Park, Disneyland and other places! Just don't forget to check the weather. Hong Kong can be hot and humid, rainy and cold.
Being an OFW in a strange land is both challenging and exciting. These facts about Hong Kong are a bird's eye view to give you an idea about the place. But I'm sure you will learn more as you adjust to your new home.
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OWWA benefits for OFW-members, seamen or seafarers and their dependents include scholarship programs, financial assistance, health benefits and free training courses.