Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some General Information

I received a rather strident, but not unexpected comment from someone regarding a previous post on the problematic behavior of domestic helper picnics on the sidewalks in Hong Kong. It started with the rather predictable. "These women are treated like slaves"

Two words: B.S.

They are not slaves. Nobody forced them onto a slave ship. They were not "Sold" at a market and they can quit any time they want. At the end of a two year contract the employer has to pay their way back home. They often quit in the middle of a contract and either return to where they came from or find another employer in Hong Kong. They have garanteed days off and holidays. None of those things are rights that slaves have.

More than that, domestic helpers are not particularly low paid by Hong Kong standards.

Domestic helpers in Hong Kong have a higher actual salary, when you include their benefits and more days off than many of the locals in Hong Kong.

The commentor says "I don't believe that!" Well let us add it up: Domestic Helpers make about $3500 Hong Kong dollars a month in basic salary. All of that is disposable income because they are provided room and board and you have to look at the cost of that as well in figuring their salary. How much is that worth? Well a small room with a shared bathroom and some kitchen privileges in Causeway Bay is about $2500 a month. Figure that food cost the average low wage earner in Hong Kong about $50.00 a day assuming they do not eat out. Maids have to have an insurance policy provided for them by the employer; which cost about $500.00 a month. They are provided airfare home once a year which must be figured into their income. When all of this is put into the total, a maid in Hong Kong actually has a life style closer to a local person making about $8000.00 a month. They don't work more hours than many other professions like security guards or those in food-service or hotels, indeed even most rather high-dollar jobs here require lots of hours. So, let us assume a maid is on duty 12 hours a day, six days a week. That comes to 72 hours a week and 288 hours a month or about the average for a job in Hong Kong. $8000 a month divided by 288 is about 28 dollars an hour. Lots of people in Hong Kong do not make that much. Please notice, my wife and I looked at hiring a maid and this is how I know these figures.

Now are some, possible a high percentage of the maids done hard by their employers? Yes, certainly. Does that mean that all employers treat them poorly? No, it doesn't.

However, whether the domestic helpers are treated badly by their employers our not is irrelevant to my point. They maids I complained about were having a picnic on a pedestrian bridge that was over a busy street. The police will not let pedestrians block that bridge for other purposes, we can they? If it is a traffic hazard for the normal population to do this then it is a traffic hazard for domestic helpers to do so as well. Their working conditions have nothing to do with it.

If the other low income workers in Hong Kong cannot picnic on the sidewalk then the domestic helpers should not be allowed to either. I would bet that the person making the comment drives a car, and thus does not have to walk over the maids.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger without a maid

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Five paragraphs to defend something you find irrelevant?

Hong Kong people in general have proven tolerant of a little inconvenience on Sunday afternoons if it means those who do all of their dirty work the other six days can enjoy themselves for a few hours with friends in the shade. If it bothers you that much, don't visit Central and Causeway Bay on Sundays; if you live there, you may want to consider moving if it's that much of an inconvenience.

By the way, you know damn well that many domestic helpers are paid far less than the legal minimum of HKD 3580. In my opinion anyone who pays their domestic helper even the bare minimum for 72 hours per week is a degenerate.

And, no, I do not have a car in Hong Kong and I do not employ a domestic helper.