Saturday, May 14, 2016

Kelley Loper Comments on the Treatment of Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong (HKEJ)

"Why domestic workers should be allowed to live out"
Manvel Keshishyan
Hong Kong Economic Journal
12 May 2016
Alisha stands apart from the other domestic helpers enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the park. She says she has been in Hong Kong for a few months and has not made many friends. She continually slides her thumb across the phone screen to check whether her sister is online so she can see her 17-month-old son back home in the Philippines.
     ”My sister takes care of my son. If I have free time, I immediately call him,” she says. “My biggest concern is when I go back home, my son will not recognize me and it hurts.”  Alisha, 40, wants to be known only by her first name.
     She must return to her employers’ home by 8:30 p.m. to make dinner and do chores until midnight. The normal workday lasts 17 hours made longer by the rude attitude of her employers.
     The grandmother is the hardest on her. “She is always telling me I am lazy, I am useless, and when it finally hurts me and I can’t keep my temper I say ‘tell this to your daughter and let me go home,’ I don’t care, I don’t want to come back to Hong Kong again,” Alisha says.
     Alisha’s plight is familiar to Hongkongers...
     Julie Ham, associate professor of criminology in the University of Hong Kong, supports efforts to terminate the ”live-in” requirement. Ham thinks scrapping the arrangement would give “greater flexibility and greater choice to both workers and employers”.
     Ham says domestic worker rights organizations should be involved in the process. ”Domestic workers and their activist networks have a keen sense of the most urgent changes that are required. It is crucial for them to be involved in any discussions about regulation,” Ham says.
     Kelley Loper, director of the human rights program in the faculty of law of the University of Hong Kong, thinks that domestic helpers’ working hours should be limited. Loper adds that living with the employer can increase opportunities of ”exploitation, sub-standard working and living conditions”.
     ”International human rights bodies have repeatedly called on the Hong Kong government to change their policies in this regard. If Hong Kong agreed to establish an independent human rights commission, it could take up this issue,” Loper says... Click here to read the full article.

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