Debate over NETs has nothing to do with remuneration of domestic helpers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2011, 12:00am

I refer to Kevin McQueen's letter ('Paying domestic helpers under the market rate is discriminatory', July 13) in reply to my letter (Native aspect of a language is not important to people learning English', June 30).

He refers to Julia Kwong's letter on native English-speaking teachers ('NETs are a drain on resources', June 9). However, the headline of his letter shows yet another focus - helpers.

He diverts the debate which is about the cost-effectiveness of NETs to an unrelated agenda by making groundless accusations about discrimination against helpers.

It is simplistic to single out the cash element of helpers' guaranteed benefit package as evidence that they are paid below local workers' minimum wages.

Given Hong Kong's high cost of living, when room, board, transportation and other benefits are factored in, the cash value of a helper's compensation easily exceeds that of a local worker.

This is especially true for helpers employed in better-off districts.

There is no question, as Mr McQueen unrealistically insinuates, of mainland workers finding Hong Kong's domestic employment which affords net monthly take-home pay of more than HK$3,000 degrading.

He has no idea about the diligence and pragmatism of Chinese workers who underwrite China's economic successes. Mainland workers are denied domestic employment in Hong Kong to protect the established interests of foreign workers who would easily be marginalised in an open competition.

Mr McQueen mistakes cost-cutting as the only means to improve cost-effectiveness.

He should recall that the debate originated from Professor Andy Kirkpatrick's research finding that for the teaching of English as a foreign language, multilingual teachers are more effective than native English-speaking monoglots. Given the same cost, teachers employed from Singapore and India will prove more effective because they are multilingual.

A groundless allegation about discrimination against helpers should not deflect attention from the fact that NETs are accorded unfair advantages over local teachers.

If employed, imported teachers should learn to live on the same compensation package as local teachers and get a relocation allowance as the only extra benefit.

Audrey Lam, Mid-Levels


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