Updated: Nov 27, 2018
Earlier this year, lawmaker Eunice Yung Hoi-yan accused domestic workers of congregating in public places during holidays at a Legislative Council meeting. She noted that domestic workers were affecting environmental hygiene in public places. While her question immediately sparked widespread public uproar and numerous domestic workers associations demanded an apology from her, it also makes us wonder: where could domestic workers take a break?
Where to relax?
Hong Kong is currently home to 380,000 foreign domestic workers and most of them spend their day-offs in public areas. It is undoubted that this is not their preferred option. As a hot and humid city with heavy rains in the summer, it is extremely exhaustive to spend the entire day in open areas. Nevertheless, the workers do not have another option. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities to live in and with only a salary of around HK$4,500 a month, workers can rarely afford the various types of entertainment offered by the city.
The government, meanwhile, has only provided minimal support to these workers. Currently, there is only one government-funded Overseas Domestic Helpers Centre which could accommodate at most 1,800 people. Considering the fact that there are 380,000 workers in Hong Kong and that most of them take their day-offs on Sunday, the centre is only a drop in the bucket. Additionally, there used to be seven centres in Hong Kong. However, ironically, the number falls to one as the number of domestic workers here in Hong Kong rises.
Following an apology made by Eunice a few days after her question, the issue of where domestic workers could spend their day-offs soon died down. Nevertheless, the issue remains unresolved as of this date, and every Saturday and Sunday, most of the 380,000 workers in Hong Kong spend their time in parks, footbridge passages and places under flyovers. Domestic workers have been the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s success. They enable more women to join the workforce and have helped to stabilize the birth rate of Hong Kong.
With the global demand for domestic workers on the rise, it is vital that the Hong Kong government starts providing better support to them. Indeed, China has already announced plans to attract workers from the Philippines with a higher salary. Other places are also providing a higher salary to domestic workers than Hong Kong.