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  • Writer's pictureDurham Pro Bono Blog

Hong Kong: Days-off of Foreign Domestic Helpers

Disclaimer:


The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes above.


Over the past decade, foreign domestic workers (“FDH”) have significantly contributed to the growing economy of Hong Kong. With FDH taking up the household duties, the economic value of the female labour force has been unlocked, which has been a major drive to the prosperous and booming economy. As discussed in the previous articles, the live-in rule on FDH has left them with only day-off on Sundays per week and public holidays, on which they can finally leave the household and enjoy their private space. However, there is a growing resentment among Hong Kong people towards how FDH spend their days-off.

On days-off, FDH make use of outdoor vacant public space to gather and socialise with one another, such as footbridges, parks, staircases. In particular, open spaces in Central (the central business district of Hong Kong) are popular gathering spots for them, such that these spaces are called “mini Philippines”. Apart from hanging out and having picnics with other FDH, they exchange and sell their ethnic products and food. To enjoy their only day-off to the fullest, they also hold festivals there to celebrate their culture. Given the high population density of the city, their gathering spots are very crowded and packed, leaving little space for pedestrians to walk pass those areas. Although they can lay their mats to sit on the floor, the conditions are very poor as there is rarely any shelter.

As a result of these conditions, many passers-by view them as an eyesore and many businesses nearby view them as nuisance which tarnishes the image of Hong Kong’s business district. Legislative councillor Yung Hoi-yan reiterated the conflict between FDH and the other citizens in her controversial speech that the way FDH ‘sit, eat, sleep on the ground’ affects ‘the daily lives of the public, operation of shops and the environmental hygiene in public spaces’, indicating a need to clear them out of these public spaces.

Arguably, Yung’s discriminatory speech lacks sympathy and humanity. Many like her have wrongly blamed the FDH for congregating the public spaces on their days-off. The real cause of this problem lies with the government, which has not incorporated into its city plana enough socialising spaces for FDH. As such, the FDH have no place to go but to stay in these public spaces. Renovating old industrial buildings for creative use has been a long-term project run by the government over the past years. Why not set up some indoor spaces in these renovated buildings which the public, including FDH, can socialise in?

The FDH are valuable members of the society who have contributed substantially both to households and the city’s development as a whole. Instead of harbouring a discriminatory attitude, citizens should recognise them for their efforts and accord them with the respect and gratitude they deserve.


By Serena Chan (Asia Section Feature Writer)


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