• Wed
  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 3:58am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 3:36am

Pricing domestic helpers out of reach good for Hong Kong in the long run

If a miserly HK$90 rise will worsen Hong Kong's shortage of domestic helpers, then I say raise it by a couple of hundred, or even thousands. Some people are worried. I say it's a good thing.

Let the maids qualify for local minimum wages and enjoy the same permanent residency conditions. Once it costs as much to hire a foreign maid as it is to hire a local one, we can stop importing such a "cheap" source of foreign labour. In fact, they cost our society far more than it's often realised.

Instead of more than 300,000 maids, we will be much better off with 30,000 well-paid and motivated maids - like those sought-after and highly paid butlers. But most of us wouldn't be able to afford them. That's the whole point. Do your own household chores. Take care of your own children. Spend more quality time at home instead of slaving away in the office. So I am not advocating all this for the maids' benefit. It's just good for Hong Kong and our society to have far fewer maids. What do most maids do all day? Most try to do the minimum or less to get by because they get the same pay regardless. Some also steal now and then to get, in their own minds, their fair share. Why do you think so many pawn shops do such brisk business in Causeway Bay? I don't blame them. I would do the same, if not worse, if I were a foreign helper. There is no reward, only a dead-end job that sacrifices my youth and my chance at happiness in a life of my own.

Bosses know this, so many have to spend a disproportionate amount of time monitoring, disciplining and even abusing them to squeeze the most labour out of them to get their money's worth. I know there are many abusive employers. There are many unproductive and destructive maids too. It's a vicious cycle - blame it on the system.

To wean ourselves off our maid addiction, the government will have to introduce more realistic maternity and paternity leave and provide better-subsidised childcare and kindergartens. Companies will have to offer more progressive policies such as flexible work hours and even daycare to help workers who are mothers.

As it is, the exploitation of foreign maids lets the government off the hook and enables companies to exploit us wage slaves in turn.

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shafinhk
I believe Alex is earning hundred of thousand of dollars a month. Those couple who earn their limited living with a family total earning of HK$20,000. they would not be able to afford them. middle class will suffer. High class like Alex Lo will have no problem at all.
the best option is that there should be no law to regulate the wages for the maids. it should be under free contract with employer and maid. she can earn 3,000 or she can earn 30,000 it should depend on the employers and maids NOT under bureaucracy which is actually Bureau-Crazy.
ncor
Speaking for the expat community, if you get rid of the benefit of a maid, many expats families will no longer be able to afford Hong Kong because both parents can't work full time without a maid. They will move - pollution, unbelievable housing and education costs are all that remain in HK which is why Singapore is where most expats move once they have started a family. I sometimes wonder if this is what CY Leung and the PRC want - get the pesky foreigners out of China (but leave the money here!) or put them in new Ghettoes like the "free" trade zone in Pudong where they can be better controlled and managed.
Camel
What kind of an expat is earning that less money?
richardg23
You are not speaking for the expat community. Or was there an election of a spokesperson that I missed? I'm with honger and blue on this one. Hogwash
honger
"if you get rid of the benefit of a maid, many expats families will no longer be able to afford Hong Kong because both parents can't work full time without a maid."
Hogwash, u are talking. If u are really expat and from where u are coming - europe or u.s. -this "maid" culture is non-existent. People still carry on with their lives, raising children and doing basic house chores.
And, pls don't put a poltical twist to something as mundane as household chores!!!
blue
I gotta agree with honger. That is one lame post. Especially since most expats are totally overpaid and have a lot of perks that locals don't enjoy.
florenceb
Fully agree with AL. While I am stuck now with having to hire a domestic helper being divorced with no help from my ex and 2 children, I am looking forward to the day where I can get back my privacy at home. I am lucky at the moment to have a reliable helper but it has been nightmarish at time to find someone. When is the government going to start looking at other options?
While I am not against foreign domestic helper having the right of abode, I recall that when I went through the process, I had to show white paw, proof pf paying taxes, etc... do they?
At the moment, FDH do have a decent bargain, wage increase 3 years in a row where most of us did not even get the inflation. They do not have to pay for their housing, their food, no taxes and we have to bear all their medical bills. My boss will not do that for me.
If you compare their status to the hardworking people under the minimum wage who still have to pay for their own housing, they are much better of.
johnyuan
AL not beating behind the bush but he is careless towards almost the end of his courageous comment citing mothers instead parents as workers who must be helped. Even though he was careful to qualify it by his precedent sentence that assistance includes maternity and paternity leave .
…..
For posters who crucify him for being gender bias is unnecessary but may be missing the larger picture of his thesis that Hong Kong will be better off when we all do our own housework and parenting. AL is right too about flexi-hours and daycare as a way to get there. After all they are proven success and being practiced since 1970s in the US. That is since women went to work outside of home – a history with no intended judgment on gender.
tomnhk@hotmail.com
Some of these domestic help come from impoverished villages and squatters In the philippines. Providing employment and sending money back home provides a major resource for many. I have personally seen a helper educate her siblings and retire buying a land and house back home. They are often treated as "Balikbayan" or expat which is considered prestigious. The decrease in domestic Filipino help is due to the fact that many prefer to become care givers in Canada and the possibilities of getting permanent residency than cleaning your toilets here in HK. Hong Kong is often used as a stepping stone to apply for better opportunities overseas.
mosmos12
I would like to know how many children Alex LO has?
People need to work and should work and many women enjoy working as well as having children so who is he to say women should stay at home and look after the children when they could work and assist with the family income.
We are able to go out to work because we can afford helpers here in HONGKONG unlike other countries and think about all the old people that can remain into heir own homes rather than been put in an old age home because they and their families can afford to have helpers to care for them in the comfort of their own homes .
We see more helpers looking after old people now in HONGKONG, so what is he suggesting these old people in wheelchairs do their own housework ?
Think again and don't be so quick to put HONGKONG ways down

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