Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in Hong Kong, the 400,000 foreign domestic workers currently living in the city have been the center of attention: new regulations, compromises, travel bans, mass contracts’ terminations… This often hidden part of the population is also facing a difficult time. While traditional agencies are experiencing a downturn in their activity, HelperChoice.com, the leading 100% online ethical platform for the recruitment of domestic helpers, has witnessed a significant increase of its users, showing signs of a clear digitalisation of the industry.
A Strong Digitalisation of The Industry
Facilitating Recruitment During The Covid-19 Crisis
With the implementation of social distancing amid Covid-19, HelperChoice witnessed a strong increase of its traffic. The leading ethical platform for the recruitment of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong jumped by 150% new users between late March and early April.
Mahee Leclerc, Head of HelperChoice in Hong Kong, explains: “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”, she adds: “HelperChoice is the largest database of finished contracts domestic helpers in the city, which is extremely convenient as they are the only ones whose visas can be processed in the current situation”.
To cope with the circumstances, the Hong Kong government put in place temporary regulations to ease the life and recruitment of domestic workers who are already based in Hong Kong.
HelperChoice goes one step further and fulfills its social mission once again. The ethical service now offers a 20% promotion to all households willing to search a foreign domestic helper through HelperChoice.com, with the code: HCSTAYHOME.
More Than a Temporary Trend
However, this phenomenon doesn’t look like a temporary trend, but more like a structural change in the industry. After months of political unrest and now, sanitary crisis, Hong Kongers and foreign domestic workers, who were favouring traditional employment agencies before, are now turning to online services for good.
Mrs. Ng told HelperChoice: “I chose to use this service because of the current situation at first, the whole process was way easier online, but I also realised the ethical mission of HelperChoice. I hired my previous helper from a traditional agency and discovered that she had to pay high fees to find a job, she even had to take a loan, I don’t want this to happen ever again, it’s unfair. Just like any other industry, it’s only logical for these types of services to digitalise, I believe this is the beginning of a movement that will last post-crisis.”
Technology For Good: Empowering Migrant Workers Through Online Services
A Free Access To The Job Market
HelperChoice is part of the growing community of social impact startups in Hong Kong. The platform offers transparent access to the job market and more flexibility for both foreign domestic workers and employers in the city.
Since its creation, the startup has facilitated more than 50,000 recruitments and prevented the levying of more than 60 million euros in illegal fees. The service has also been recognised by the International Labour Organisation for promoting fair recruitment practices: “The online recruitment agency HelperChoice launched an innovative awareness programme to influence domestic employer behaviours in favour of fair recruitment services in Hong Kong.”
Informing Migrant Workers Of Their Rights
During the contract, HelperChoice offers permanent support to helpers and employers in order to ensure safe and fair working conditions. 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. Thanks to technology, migrant workers are not isolated anymore and have a better access to information.
Digital Remittances Solutions
Finally, HelperChoice’s mission is to support foreign domestic workers in their main motivation: to send remittances to their families back home, mainly in the Philippines and Indonesia.
For this, many of them now favour digital solutions, such as e-wallets. According to a study conducted by the platform in December 2019, in Hong Kong, 84% of migrant workers use digital tools (online transfers or e-wallets) to transfer part of their wages to their country of origin.
To facilitate this process, HelperChoice is working on a solution for paying the helpers’ salaries directly through the platform in order to offer more transparency to both parties. And most importantly, on the possibility for helpers to make free monthly remittances, to ensure that none of their hard work money is lost.
Today, the HelperChoice team is 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. Mahee Leclerc, Head of HelperChoice in Hong Kong, reveals: “Our goal is to completely disrupt the traditional recruitment agencies’ industry. The matching platform is a success, as it offers more transparency for both parts, but we want to go one step further by covering the entire recruitment process online, the search, the visa process, the payment and even include trainings for the domestic helpers. We’ve got a lot coming up for the next few months and will unveil new exciting features this summer!”
Mahee LECLERC – [email protected] – +852 9132 3115
Founded in 2012 by two French in Hong Kong, HelperChoice has become the leading platform connecting foreign domestic workers and families in Asia and the Middle East. HelperChoice was set up as a social enterprise, and its impact was recognised by many organisations, including the International Labour Organisation. HelperChoice has been acquired by Yoopies in 2019. With this acquisition, the European-based group Yoopies became the global leader outside of the United States in domestic jobs recruitment.
HelperChoice frequently speaks about domestic workers related topics on ABS-CBN, find out more about how the political unrest affects Hong Kong domestic workers and the average salary’s evolutions in the city.