Hong Kong: On families day, reflect on the lives of domestic workers
HONG KONG -
Around the world, May 15 is celebrated as International Day of Families - an occasion to celebrate the role families play in societies and an opportunity to reflect on the struggles families face in the light of social and economic trends. For the 300,000 migrant workers in Hong Kong who leave their families behind in search of a better future, the sentiments of this day are particularly important.
In order to maintain their extended families and communities back home, migrant women give up a life with their families to take care of our homes, raise our children, and look after our older relatives as domestic workers. They enable us to maintain a healthy work-life balance and are the backbone of Hong Kong's economic success.
Despite the huge sacrifice they make and the indispensible role they play in Hong Kong, migrant women work under a discriminatory legislative framework that allows exploitative working conditions and abusive employment. The compulsory live-in rule allows employers to exploit working hours and leaves women open to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, the widely condemned two-week rule (meaning that on termination of a contract, a migrant woman has only two weeks to secure new employment before she must leave Hong Kong) leaves women in abusive employment situations with no means of escape.
Since the high-profile abuse case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih grabbed headlines, Hong Kong-based charity Enrich has seen a marked increase in demand for its workshops. Enrich provides financial literacy, communication and personal development training for migrant women, educating them on their rights and teaching assertive communication techniques that can prevent sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, domestic violence and general abuse. Yet with limited resources, only a small fraction of the migrant worker community are reached, and women in the most serious abusive situations would be physically unable to ever access such services.
On International Day of Families, we call on the Hong Kong community to recognise the huge sacrifice migrant women make for their families back home and the enormous benefit they in turn bring to our family lives here.
We also urge the Hong Kong government to introduce a legislative framework that prevents abuse, treats migrant women with respect and offers the protection they deserve.
Story Type: News