After reaching Hong Kong on Saturday, I decided to go for walk on Sunday morning. It was a bit late in the morning when I got out and reached Victoria Park. I was surprised to see a number of South Asian ladies gathered there. They were sitting, eating, talking and dancing while some were lying down and resting on cardboard boxes. At first I thought they were protesting against something but on a closer look, I realised they were celebrating life with their friends. They are the “unsung heroes” of Hong Kong, the Helpers or maids.
Most of these foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong live with their employers. They form a very important part of the Hong Kong society and perform household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, serving and looking after their employer’s children.
There are about 340,000 foreign domestic workers from countries such as Indonesia and Philippines. More than 60 percent of them are young mothers, who have come to Hong Kong for a better future for their children and families back home.
Increasingly the human rights groups are scrutinising their working conditions and working closely with the authorities in framing laws and regulations.
During the 1970’s, Philippines passed a law legalising export of labour in the form of overseas workers. Around the same time Hong Kong started prospering more as a result of China implementing wide-reaching economic reforms and increasing trade with the rest of the world. With prosperity, came the requirement of domestic help, which was fulfilled by labour from Philippines. So it was a win win for both countries.
A British documentary film maker, Joanna Bowers has produced a documentary on these workers called “The Helper”. Some of these women are so talented in music that it is treat to watch them perform (check out the video above). She also helped to form a choir “The Unsung Helpers”, who performed at a premier Hong Kong music event, Clockenflap.
Do check them out if you ever visit Hong Kong.