• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 10:07am

It's hardly surprising that helpers might have to share a room in HK 'shoeboxes'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am

I refer to the letter from Doris Lee of Open Door ('Action needs to be taken to ensure the safety of foreign domestic workers', September 23).

Your correspondent referred to the abuses suffered by foreign domestic workers and to the 614 cases being handled by the Mission for Migrant Workers.

She stated that, of these 614 workers, 23 per cent did not have a private room and that those 'without their own room must sleep in the living, dining or laundry room, kitchen or bathroom, or share a room'.

She further pointed out that reported cases form only a small portion of actual reported incidents.

If I do my maths, that makes it 141 maids who have reported that they do not have private rooms.

Without even doing any research, I am sure this is a clear under-representation of actual cases.

Is anyone surprised, and should this be newsworthy? This is, after all, Hong Kong, where prices for flats are sky-high and land is scarce.

It is certainly not surprising that one has to share a room.

You are talking about a city where flats have been described as 'shoeboxes' or 'pigeonholes'.

We are talking here about a city where some people live in partitioned flats or cage homes.

There is clearly a disconnect between the ideals championed by groups such as the Mission for Migrant Workers and the reality of life in Hong Kong. To list not having a private room in the same breath as abuse is laughable.

Contentment and gratitude are key. While Hong Kong is wonderful in all its myriad freedoms, I think foreign domestic helpers are overstepping the boundaries of acceptability in complaining about their rooming conditions. What next - demands for en suites?

If foreign domestic helpers want to rid themselves of any shadow of discrimination, the best way is to stand with the rest of the Hong Kong population and give back to society - whether in cash or kind - and be grateful for the place that has provided them with a livelihood.

Grace Oh, Mid-Levels

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