[KCLPASS Columns 2016-2017 Issue #1]
In midst of the complications and business of the streets of Hong Kong, there are those we see as ‘foreigners’ – the ones under loads of school bags or carrying many groceries supported by their rather small figures. These people are the domestic helper of thousands of families in Hong Kong. While their services are not cheap, the idea of a full time helper in the household is very appealing to the people of Hong Kong – individuals with packed schedules do not have time for house cleaning or taking care of their family on a daily basis. This raises the issue where these domestic helpers should or should not be lawfully forced to inhabit the same home as their employers.
Certainly, there are benefits for both parties with the helpers being available at request and the foreign helpers would not have to worry about a place of living. However, as this system has been in place for over 15 years now, cases have shown the potential dangers and inconsideration of the system becoming realities through tragedies. While the employers of the domestic helpers can enjoy a full time service, one of the key sacrifices for both parties would be their privacy. This issue is not only limited to the domestic helpers but extends beyond the scope. Considering majority of domestic helpers are likely to be the only one in the house, their actions are subjected to increased scrutiny due to the suspicious and distrusting nature of the ancient minds of some in Hong Kong. Though cautions are in fact needed from the employers, their monitoring and inspections are often out of context and can be easily interpreted as a breach of human rights that all should share. The argument of whether the helpers should be lawfully enforced to live with their employers is one that cannot be decisively pinned down but could however, be improved upon. After all, the role of the helpers is in fact an employee and it can be seen as normal for them to comply with their job requirements once they accept it, just like all working people. However, the system definitely requires some fundamental changes and that must begin with the mindsets of both employers and the helpers. With such vast employments across homes, law enforcements are almost redundant with only cases that make the headlines will be noticed.
Therefore, in order to prevent all the tragedies and incidences we have already seen for the current lives of many under the same sky, education is crucial. Both parties should be fully aware and understand the power each other holds in the employment rights and have a common understanding of the basic human rights that both are entitled to. Only through a change of mindset and resolve in the incongruences of it with our current age will truly change the lives of millions.
Author: Vicky Mak
KCLPASS Sub-committee member 2016-17
(The view of the author does not represent the position of the Society. KCLPASS is a politically neutral society.)