Domestic workers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia come to Hong Kong to work for several reasons – all of them financial.
Primarily, they want to earn money to send home to support their family – education and health care are not free there, and the cost of quality health care and education is well beyond the reach of the average filipino.
In Hong Kong they will earn at least HKD 4,410 – less than half the wage that a Hong-Konger or other foreign worker will earn, but more than twice as much as they could expect in their home country.
Many of them will have an ulterior motive for coming here. Some will be using it as a stepping stone to get to Canada – who will only take ‘live-in caregivers’ with a certain educational level and one year’s experience of working overseas.
Others will come with the intention of finding a new husband – who will give her and her children much better prospects. It may be a US guy they meet here or online, or a local Hong-Konger. If they marry a local they can change their visa status to dependent and stay here indefinitely as well as being able to get jobs which pay three times as much.
A third, and often overlooked category or girls come here, or stay here, for sex work. This is rarely discussed and often swept under the carpet.
Imagine you are a 20 something girl with young children to support and you have come to Hong Kong so you can send them money. Everything goes well until your employer terminates you for no reason (under the unfair laws here it is easy for the employers to do).
Under the law you must return to the Philippines within 14 days. You have no time to find a new job, you cannot work without a visa, and your family still needs your help. What do you do?
Many girls take the risky option of overstaying their visa so they can cruise the bars in Wanchai looking for customers for sex. Sometimes they can get away with this for many years, but immigration officers often pose as clients and we frequently read of girls deported or imprisoned.
Some working domestic helpers here legally will also ‘moonlight’ on a Saturday night and Sunday to earn a little extra money.
Other girls will come into Hong Kong on a 14 day visitor visa and ‘work the bars’ before they have to go home, or even overstay instead of going home. They have little to lose.
I accept that this has always been the case and probably always will, but until Hong Kong improves salary and conditions for it’s helpers it is certainly not going to get any better.
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Meet the author
Arthur Crandon is a lawyer, the boring office kind, not the exciting (and much better paid) courtroom type. He worked as a solicitor for a while before embarking on an interesting life overseas. He has spent most of his time in recent years in South East Asia, more recently in Hong Kong. Before that, Arthur lived and worked in the Philippine Islands.
He loves to fish, and play the piano – but spends most of his time writing, eating, drinking and sleeping
– usually, but not always, in that order.
His first book, Deadly Election, draws on his strange imagination and his
experiences, together with those of others, in a land that, beneath a veneer of civilisation, operates like the Wild West and is very
dangerous to innocent and gullible foreigners.
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