Give do­mes­tic work­ers a place to gather

South China Morn­ing Post (Hong Kong)

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Ev­ery Sun­day in Hong Kong, a mass of for­eign maids con­gre­gate in pub­lic places to share food and catch up with friends. A law­maker re­cently pro­voked a fu­ri­ous out­cry when she com­plained that this rit­ual dam­ages the city’s “en­vi­ron­men­tal hy­giene”. To be fair to her, says Al­bert Cheng, these gath­er­ings do cause some in­con­ve­nience. But the re­spon­si­bil­ity for this “prob­lem” lies not with these mostly Filipino and In­done­sian live-in work­ers, but squarely with leg­is­la­tors and em­ploy­ers who pro­vide them with nowhere else to meet on their days off. Hong Kong’s 350,000 or so for­eign do­mes­tic work­ers make up 5% of the pop­u­la­tion. “Without their help in do­ing house­work and tak­ing care of the young and old”, the city would strug­gle to func­tion. Rather than ex­pect­ing them to keep as­sem­bling on streets and parks on their days off, let’s de­velop a proper, cen­tral venue for them that can serve as a fixed gath­er­ing spot and host cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. It’s in our in­ter­est as much as theirs to do so. “With the boom­ing econ­omy in Asia, coun­tries like the Philip­pines and In­done­sia are go­ing to be pros­per­ous one day.” If we don’t treat these work­ers well, they may not stick around for much longer.

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