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Hong Kong: A working mum and her Philippine domestic worker

Hong Kong: A working mum and her Philippine domestic worker

by IDWFED published Dec 01, 2015 12:00 AM
Contributors: Grace Tsoi/BBC News
Of the seven or so million residents in the former British colony of Hong Kong, nearly 5% - some 340,000 - are foreign domestic workers. Nearly half come from either the Philippines or Indonesia, and are indispensable assets for many working parents in the city. But, as the BBC's Grace Tsoi discovers, the experience of motherhood of one Filipina live-in maid differs enormously from that of the Chinese working mother who employs her.



Watch the video and read the original article in full: 100 Women 2015: Hong Kong mum and her Philippine nanny | BBC News


Photo: Felix Tong/BBC News (Screen Capture)

The live-in nanny: Marites Samson, 32, from the Philippines

Marites B Samson chose to leave her native Philippines and head to Hong Kong for work, even though she did not speak the language and had never been a domestic helper.

The money was the draw.

In Hong Kong, a domestic helper earns at least 4,210 Hong Kong dollars ($543) - the minimum wage - while in Samson's hometown, Cabangan, a cashier earns 800 Hong Kong dollars ($103), so roughly a fifth of that.

"In the Philippines, life is so hard, and unless I can work here, nobody will support my two kids' education and they won't have a good future," Marites explains. During one trip home, Samson discovered her husband had been cheating on her.

"He said he had needs I couldn't fulfil as I was working so far away," says Samson. She has since decided to leave her husband and her children are looked after by her sister and mother. "I've done nothing wrong," she adds, "I just live for my kids so they can study and [they] didn't deserve this."

Then the emotional toll gets the better of her.

"As a mother, it's so hard to leave your children. When I left, they were crying, crying. But if I didn't go, nobody would support them," she tells me, wiping tears from her face.

The working mum: Karen Lam, 40, from Hong Kong

As a college lecturer, Karen Lam works at least nine hours a day - reportedly about 20% higher than the OECD average but the norm in Hong Kong.

While Samson takes care of her five-year-old daughter and handles the chores, Karen Lam pursues her career.

"I love working," says Karen, "and of course I want to achieve my career goals." Working full-time means she has three or four hours a day to spend with her daughter. "Sometimes I feel guilty. There was a time when I was still teaching at night so I couldn't see my daughter. I missed her so much then."

Karen will not allow herself, however, to be paralysed by guilt.

"I need to adjust mentally. I make the choice to continue working." There are also practical reasons for working. "I have to take care of my family. We also have other expenses and still need to pay the mortgage." If she stops working, she says she and her husband Felix Tong would have trouble paying their bills and would need to cancel their evening classes, which are important for furthering their careers.

Leisure, like travelling, would also be impossible, she says.

'In someone else's shoes'

Domestic help is something Karen knew from the start she would need, even though she herself was raised by her grandmother. This reflects a changing trend.

According to statistics, 67% of families in 2006 were nuclear [two generations, rather than more], compared with 54.4% 25 years earlier.

Karen says she recognises the contribution domestic workers make, saying: "We have to put ourselves in their shoes."

Source: Grace Tsoi/BBC News

Story Type: Story

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