Domestic helpers in Hong Kong deserve much more than just a pay rise
I refer to Yonden Lhatoo’s column (“HK$100 pay rise for domestic helpers? Gosh, we’re generous!” October 2).
When I was in kindergarten, all my classmates went to school with their maid. I was the only one accompanied by my aunt. I remember telling my mum several times to hire a maid to take care of me, and to reduce my aunt’s workload. Now, I realise it is not necessary to have a domestic helper to take care of us; we should take care of ourselves.
The HK$100 rise is far from adequate, given the increasing cost of living here. And in many cases, the helpers have a very stressful life because employers can be arrogant. They will take out their own frustrations from a heavy work day on the helpers because they think they are the boss.
In recent years, there have been well-documented instances of domestic helper abuse and the lack of support from helper agencies. The fear of losing a stable income prevents others from reporting problems with their employers.
Abuse can be physical but also take the form of thoughtless humiliation. I once saw a family having breakfast in a fast food restaurant with their helper. The four family members sat and waited for their helper to bring a total of four food trays. No one helped and the father of the family kept telling her to hurry.
I was frustrated to see the helper at last need to find herself a seat to eat alone, instead of sitting with the family and I lent my seat to her.
Of course, there are also cases that the helper is included as a family member. At Disneyland, for example, it is not uncommon to see smiling helpers not only taking care of the kids but also playing the games together. And when photos are taken, the family and helper are all together, not a gap between them. These families don’t have a boss-worker relationship. In fact, how you treat your helper can actually teach your kids how to treat one another in society.
Being a domestic helper is not easy. They come to earn a living for themselves and their family in their homeland. It is always a job we should respect.
Laura Tam, Tsuen Wan