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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Give Hong Kong’s domestic helpers a fair deal, it’s not that complicated

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2018, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2018, 11:01pm

I am writing in reply to Kris Wong’s letter, “Why can’t Hong Kong show its domestic helpers some respect?” (August 10).

Hiring a domestic worker is common in Hong Kong, where one in eight families employs one. However, the issue of protecting their rights seems to be taken lightly, despite workers’ rights groups and NGOs highlighting their plight.

I agree with Mr Wong that helpers’ cash allowance for food is far from enough amid soaring living expenses in Hong Kong. It is common to see helpers congregating in different public places at the weekend, from Sha Tin Park and Mong Kok to Victoria Park and Statue Square. But have we ever taken a second to figure out why they gather on the street even during the scorching summer? I believe it’s mainly because of their role as the family breadwinner. As they try to save every dollar they can, hanging out with friends on the street seems to be the best option.

NGOs and labour welfare groups have been calling for a pay rise for helpers, and even for fixed working hours, as the live-in clause in the employment contract means many are on 24/7 slave-like duty. These are all fair demands, for in a way they are the backbone of our workforce. They take care of the home front, the children and the elderly, so that office staff can go to work.

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However, domestic helpers are often treated badly: they face abuse and appalling conditions. It’s only when such cases hit the headlines that we realise how they are mistreated and how their basic human rights are infringed upon.

We are so reliant upon our domestic helpers. They help propel our economy. Give them the rights they are entitled to. It’s not that complicated.

Katy Law, Sha Tin