• Sat
  • Nov 1, 2014
  • Updated: 10:26am
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.

Share

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

31

This article is now closed to comments

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!!!
HK-Explorer
When I read Alex Lo's Email the first thing I thought was: "I could have written this". He is able to accurately express what most people in Hong Kong feel but are worried to say out loud for fear of sounding racist.
I cannot imagine what "craigb" below is thinking. He must not be living in HK or living in some 4,000 sq foot house where his wife takes care of all the dealings with domestic helpers.
Dealing with domestic helpers constant games, little stories and working out if what they are saying is truth or not is very tiring. 3 years ago we switched to using a local HK helper and the experience is like night and day, All that stress is gone. Local helpers are very professional and get on with their work instead of trying to take advantage of you.
Hong Kong government should start to come up with policies to reduce the dependence on foreign helpers and add more community support for working parents (after school programs etc...)
blue
"The day when most of maids leave Hong Kong is the day that marks the liberation of slavery – maid’s bondage to us and us to our employer."

Reality check: Most maids are maids because there are NO employment opportunities in their badly mismanaged home countries, and they need to provide income for their families. Also maids consider HK one of the better places to migrate to since countries like UAE and Lebanon are far worse!
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
PCC,
I think you and your wife will have the last smile seeing your children growing up to be loving people. The laughs too throughout as a family growing together are instant reward at every moment. The parents of the older generation when stay home parents were the norm know what I want to convey.
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
craigb
"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."
"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."
Is anyone at SCMP going to have a word with Mr. Lo about this column which both accuses most domestic helpers of being lazy and dishonest while at the same time seemingly condoning bosses abusing these exploited individuals to "get their money's worth" out of them? Seriously, how can this possibly make it past your editors? As your employee and representative of your paper he should be rebuked for what borders on hate speech against a minority of our population. Sadly, Mr. Lo's comments probably represent the views of a sizable minority of employers in Hong Kong but that doesn't make his his opinions correct or acceptable.
honger
Er..., Mr Lo did qualify his comments with "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."
Pls don't quote out of context - u sound like one of those employers who triy to justify their own use of DHs by taking the DH's side whatever. Mr Lo's assertions are solidly backed by many news stories and courtcases - both ways, that is.
321manu
I agree that people want "freedom". But if they want freedom, then don't become a parent. And if you're going to become a parent, then be prepared to do the parenting. Sloughing off parenting to (apparently) poorly-paid help is an abdication of responsibility. And people wonder why some kids turn out to be good-for-nothings...

Pages

 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or