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Poverty line

Respect grass-roots workers, urges Hong Kong snooker queen

Women’s world champion Ng On-yee shadowed an estate cleaner who earns less than HK$8,800 a month and who rarely has a break; they star in a new art exhibit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 11:03pm

Be polite to grass-roots workers and respect their enormous contribution which has helped turn the city into a better place, Hong Kong snooker queen Ng On-yee says.

The 26-year-old women’s world champion is among the celebrities featured in an art exhibition called “Poverty. Full-time”. It is co-organised by aid agency Oxfam to highlight the hardships faced by grass-roots workers and the injustices they face.

Hong Kong’s Ng On-yee is new world champion in women’s snooker

Ng, who was named “Best of the Best” at the Hong Kong Sports Star Awards last year, earlier shadowed To Kin-hing, a 63-year-old cleaner working on a public housing estate in Kwun Tong.

“It is indeed tough and dangerous work,” Ng said, referring to the cleaner’s job of moving heavy rubbish from every floor to the refuse room through the garbage chute. Some cleaners have died after accidentally falling into the chute.

Ng said she was born in a grass-roots family – with a father who worked as a driver – and therefore always respects the tough work done by workers who help make society a comfortable place to live in.

“[What we can do] is very simple – as easy as saying hello to the cleaners or workers.That would be enough to cheer them up,” Ng said. “To in fact is the pride of Hong Kong as it is hard to imagine what the city would be like without the efforts of her and others.”

Outsourced workers are the most exploited as they can only earn the minimum wage
Wong Shek-hung of Oxfam

To, who works for a company hired by the government, earns the minimum wage of HK$32.50 per hour, which brings her less than HK$8,800 a month. She usually does not have any days off.

The cleaner is one of the breadwinners in a seven-member family and usually only has HK$1,000 for herself every month.

Wong Shek-hung, Oxfam’s Hong Kong programme manager, said she hoped the art exhibition could help Hongkongers better understand the plight of grass-roots workers.

“Outsourced workers are the most exploited as they can only earn the minimum wage, which is only reviewed every two years,” she said. “On their hourly pay, they cannot even afford a lunchbox. Is that fair?”

She called on the government to launch a universal pension scheme and review the minimum wage more frequently.

The exhibition, curated by photographer Ducky Tse, runs from January 10 to 27 at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei.