Ahead of International Women’s Day next Wednesday, a coalition of organisations has urged the Hong Kong government to improve the working conditions for hundreds of thousands of foreign domestic workers in the city.
Hong Kong has around 340,000 migrant domestic workers, mostly women from the Philippines and Indonesia.
By law they must live in their employers’ home and cannot benefit from the city’s welfare policies, including the government’s recent distribution of consumption vouchers.
The live-in requirement, as well as the lack of regulation on working hours, were among the policies that came in for criticism at a Thursday press conference attended by representatives from Women Festival, GABRIELA Hong Kong, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association, and the Mission for Migrant Workers.
Shiela Tebia, chairperson of GABRIELA Hong Kong, said the live-in stipulation left employers and employees with no alternative options.
“Is sleeping with the young ones or the elderly suitable accommodation? Is sleeping in the living room or in the kitchen suitable accommodation?” asked Tebia.
Wu Mei-lin, executive director of the Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association, said living conditions for migrant workers should be seen as part of Hong Kong’s wider social problems. “Issues faced by foreign domestic workers are in fact women’s and labour issues,” said Wu.
The executive director urged the government to step up efforts to help migrant workers.
“You see, the government, they have the resources, but they put more resources on the infrastructure, but less resources on the budget on social welfare,” said Wu.
HKFP has reached out to the Labour and Welfare Bureau for comment.
10th anniversary of One Billion Rising Hong Kong
To commemorate International Women’s Day and the tenth anniversary of One Billion Rising Hong Kong, the groups plan a series of events on Chater Road in Central on Sunday.
These will include health checks and workshops for migrant domestic workers organised by the Mission for Migrant Workers, as well as cultural performances and dances showing support for One Billion Rising.
One Billion Rising is a global movement which aims to highlight local and global cases of violence against women in their working environment.
Tebia said the groups had applied for police approval for the events. The chairperson said that while the events were initially planned for February 12, the date was moved as it clashed with the Hong Kong Marathon.
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