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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 1:28am
NewsHong Kong

Domestic helpers push for an end to live-in rule

Maids say living with their employers exposes them to the risk of assault and harassment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 5:08am

A group of foreign domestic helpers want a requirement for them to live with their employers to be scrapped.

The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers' Union says the rule exposes maids to the risk of indecent assault or sexual harassment by their employers.

They voiced their concerns yesterday with a rally outside the HSBC headquarters in Central, at which domestic helpers recounted recent ordeals they have had while living with their employers in the city.

One Indonesian maid at the demonstration described feeling vulnerable one night when her boss came into her room.

"My boss entered my room and touched my hand while talking to me. I was so scared and cried for help. He then left my room. I was so scared but I dared not tell others. I quit the job the following day," she said.

A Nepali woman said domestic helpers can find themselves in uncomfortable situations, but they often feel powerless to act.

"A friend told me that her boss liked to watch porn films while she was working at home. She felt very embarrassed and scared but did not complain, for fear she would lose the job," she said.

Lam Ying-hing, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, and one of the organisers of the protest, said the rule that domestic helpers must live with their employers was partly to blame.

"Foreign maids would not have been in these ridiculous situations if not for the government's mandatory requirement for them to live in," Lam said.

She added that many maids chose to keep quiet about such incidents. "If they report or file a complaint about a case, they end up suffering and they'll lose the job," Lam said.

About 30 protesters chanted "stop sexual abuse, protect domestic helpers", and waved banners as they marched to Government House to deliver a petition. They want the government to review the live-in requirement and protect the safety and rights of foreign domestic helpers.

"There is no rule in the Employment Ordinance requiring decent and safe living conditions for workers who reside in their workplace," said Lam.

The federation said in a statement: "[Maids] should be provided with a separate, private room that is suitably furnished, adequately ventilated and equipped with a lock, the key to which should be provided to the domestic worker."

A 37-year-old man was sentenced to 8-1/2 years' jail last September after he was found guilty of raping his Indonesian maid at his Tsuen Wan home in 2010.


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There will never ever be a policy in Hong Kong that says maids should have their own room in their employers home. With the average middle class home being 3 bedroom and just 900 sq. feet they will never be able to provide a separate room with ventilation and a lock. If they came out with that policy then half the maids would be let go day one. I do not even believe 20% of maids would even accept that rule knowing they would loose their job.
If it was my choice I would say maids should be allowed to live outside of the home. that would be great. Not for the items listed above but it would give back the feeling of "family" and privacy to the people of HK. I think 90% of employers would love it if when they came home dinner was on the table and then the maid left to where she was staying.
I am however doubtful this would work as rents are extremely high and I do not think more than 10% of domestic helpers would even accept it if they had to pay part or all of the cost.
I also think that they would have to live 8 maids to an apartment and I cannot think of any landlord that would want 8 people living in a 500 sq foot house. There would be so many arguments between the inhabitants and no-one who will take sign the tenancy agreement. Domestic helpers are extremely transient coming and going and working in different parts of HK.
The idea sounds good for helpers and for employers but without government funded dormitories in the different districts of Hong Kong I do not see it
Hey, we had that where the maid borrowed money and the money lenders (loan sharks) kept on contacting us though phone and weird letters with debt and other words written all over the pages. All you have to do is get the letter from the government and then send that to the money lenders and then they stop contacting you.
The loan sharks said often employers try and hide the maid from them thus why they keep on contacting until they get the letter of termination from the government.
In our case we also had a photo copy of the passport and there was section of next-of-Kin in Philippines and we sent the loan sharks that info also.
Never pay the loan sharks. They seem pretty good once you give them the documentation.
When will there be rule that maid cannot use their employer personal information to borrow money and create case where shark loans come at your home or send chasing letters?
I see more and more of this and the employer can only fire her and pay penalty for firing her.
And maybe in addition her debts.
I think there is some maid gang out there.
Many domestic helpers already live outside the homes of their employers. Some employers prefer this option and will pay an extra $1000-$1500 to help the maid with rent. Maids will go together and set up their own boarding house or dormitory. It is already a common practice. The government should legalize this and not force the maid and the employer into this stressful living situation.
In New territories you may find a 700 sq foot house for HK$10,000. Thus at HK$1,500 per maid it would be 6.6 people per house. But employers in New Territories are not the ones who will be willing to pay. It is the ones in HK Island and the cheapest would be HK$15,000 per 700 sq feet. Thus 10 people per apartment. (not including electricity, water etc..). You still have the issue of who will sign the lease. If the person who signs the lease leaves then all 10 will have no place to stay.
I liked my idea below of government sponsored dormitories that could be run my a church or a mosque where each employer would pay HK$2,000 per month if they want their helper to live outside. Thus 2 choices dormitory or live in. Thus no need to worry about signing of leases. Then there will be allot less conflict between employer and employee. Relationships will last longer and I can then see the same family keeping a maid for 10 years as both feel they have their privacy.
I think the majority of people in Hong Kong would be very upset if domestic helpers became permanent residents. There are already too many people in Hong Kong and most people believe domestic helpers will just claim welfare, apply for government housing and perform illegal work.
The sad part is the people of Hong Kong would be right.
There is no other way a domestic helper could survive in HK with ought living with the host family.
About ten years ago, I had a domestic heldper who was from the Philippines. She hung her G-string in the outside bathroom. My husband felt embarrassed.
I believe Hong Kong is a place where we have sensible labour law to protect them. There are all kinds of people. If you think Hong Kong is not a right place for you, get out of here.
lot of maids had case from money lenders if they file the case in court 99% maids can't apply permeate resident


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