VIDEO – TVB News Report on Domestic Workers & Pregnancy in Hong Kong 7

TVB reports on the difficulties facing domestic workers who fall pregnant in Hong Kong. Part I:

Part II:

  • Liz Gower

    I guess the problem for many working women who employ a foreign domestic helper to enable them to go to work is that their own employer will not grant them “reciprocal maternity leave” for the ten weeks that their helper is unable to work. This report fails to point out the fact that for many of us, without a helper, we cannot go to work ourselves, and there is no possibility of employing a helper for temporary maternity leave cover, since the contracts are always of two-year duration – unless, of course, the employer has the income to declare to the ID that they can employ a second helper – who then gets dismissed once the original helper is again free to work.
    If we can’t earn the money to bring into the home, how can we then afford to pay the FDH salary? In addition, for many of us, the live-in rule means that we are already squeezed for space at home – so how is it possible to find room for another child – who may need separate accommodation space? Or for a second helper who can cover for the ten weeks’ maternity leave. Also, I do not think the employment contract makes the employer responsible for housing the newborn child – so what is supposed to happen once the child is born?
    I also think that it should be possible to build into the contract a clause that allows the employer the right to employ someone who is prepared to not get pregnant during the two year contract. Since we are all able to get hold of effective contraception in HK, this should be possible. Hard-nosed, perhaps – but if a free-market principle applies, then those women who offer this will be more likely to gain employment.
    I can understand the ID and LD unwillingness to go into detail – because the reality of FDH employment in HK makes any pregnancy heartrendingly difficult.

    • Sean Rahui

      You have identified many pertinent questions Liz, but what i suppose the one thing that seems to not be reflected in your assessment is the undeniable power imbalance that exists between employment situation you more than likely experience and those that exisit for FDH’s who are already under the extreme control required by the live in rule. How would you react to your own employer requiring control of your own fertility as a requirement of your employment? I find your suggestion that trading of fertility as an employment condition to be repugnant.

  • Miranda Wong

    I just have to say, babies don’t “just happen.” Well, sometimes it feels like that but if you get pregnant out-of-wedlock and you know that in your home country that’s going to be an issue then that might be something to think about. I’m just saying this as someone who has had two “oops” babies…it’s never convenient. The first time I got pregnant in HK, even with an HKID, I lost my job because of it. Technically, that’s not supposed to happen here but it does, all the time. Second child, I didn’t qualify for paid maternity leave because I had been on the job for less than 10 months before giving birth so yeah, I had to go on maternity leave, obviously but I also had to figure out how to support myself and my family during that time without any money coming in. Hong Kong is a place where domestic helpers come to work, not settle down. I know many domestic helpers would like to be able to just immigrate here easily but that’s not the situation and HK is not willing or able to just throw open the doors to everyone because they lack a strong social support/security system–even for people who are native to HK. So, if you come here and get pregnant, that’s a mindset that you’re planning to settle down here but it just doesn’t work with how things are set up. Yes, HK needs to afford helpers basic rights regarding maternity leave but is it okay for a helper to make decisions that put extra burdens on their employers? What if the helper wants to have multiple children? And stay in HK and live with their employer? There is a dire shortage of affordable housing in HK and if the solution is to have helpers living out will it then mean that they are living in guest houses? Crowded, less-than-ideal guesthouses, with their children? And I agree with the other commenter that what are parents to do who hire a helper so that they can work and in turn pay the helper’s salary? If my helper goes on a 10-week maternity leave (while living with me), I then need to find someone to do the helper’s job while I continue to work to cover her leave. Those who employ FDH in HK are employers, technically, but they are not businesses with budgets to just bring in temporary help to cover maternity leave. Who subsidizes that? So, my thoughts are…if you come to HK as a FDH, be clear that you know you’re here to work and make money for yourself and your family–that is the main objective–that is what your visa says. If you do happen to fall pregnant, that was due to choices you made and every choice has consequences. Know that the consequences may mean you lose your job, you need to go back to your home country and face your family…and decide if it’s worth the risk. There is no clear way for you to immigrate to Hong Kong, even if you give birth to children here. I think this is an issue of personal responsibility.

    • Han

      That is a very obvious statement “I just have to say, babies don’t “just happen.” What this shows is that many helpers, and not just helpers, do not know about their own menstrual cycle. I have personally explained to a small number of both Filipina and Indonesian helpers about the menstrual cycle, why? They didn’t know or were confused. Furthermore is that they will easily submit to male’s demands for sex to have some intimacy with a man. Almost any where helpers sit together on the day off you can find predatory males seeking sex, even to the point of demanding girls have sex with them. One man boasted to me that if they refuse his demands he will get angry with them and they cower and submit to him for fear of being assaulted. As many will know that in the Philippines sexual promiscuity is rife, there is city that is famous throughout the world, in male social circles, known as the sex capital of Asia, and indeed the Philippines government has tacitly organised it as it brings in a lot of money to their economy. But in Indonesia the opposite is true, yet in most major Indonesian cities brothels are common place. In both Philippines and Indonesia AIDS, HIV and transmittable sexual diseases are out of control in certain famous areas.
      Last year I helped a helper who had “fallen pregnant” who had been kicked out of her job with nothing but the clothes she stood in because of some local belief that an out of wedlock pregnancy abortion would attract evil spirits to their home for 40 days. The helper had sort the help of her employers who demanded she have an abortion, “a backyard” an abortion was arranged by her employers and she was not allowed any thing of her own for 40 days due that local belief. I supported her financially for all her basic needs including buying clothing which she was refused access to her own and provided free accommodation and food and even gave her money to buy food and snacks of her own choice.
      There is no crisis care for any women is that situation in HK which I found almost unbelievable given the era we live in and that HK is a major international city. I come from a country not far from HK that has had 24 Hour Emergency Shelter for females and males since the early 1980s. In fact any one finding themselves in such a situation can get immediate emergency cash and then get a “Special Benefit” from the Government during the period of their crisis.
      I am sorry to say that HK is a very backward place in terms of social justice and support.
      The so called “Hong Kong Public Housing Authority”, which is in actual fact a corporation listed on the HK Stock Exchange, has a major over supply of empty housing which is a commercial conspiracy to keep rental housing costs high and to attract investors. To say that there is a shortage of affordable housing is total fallacy.

  • Fleur

    I worked in Hong Kong as a single parent with two small children. I could only go to work because I had a helper; had my helper taken 10 weeks maternity leave, I would have had to resign from my own job, I would have been unable to pay for my flat and food, and I would have had to return to my home country. My helper would have been no better off and I would have been unemployed and homeless in my country with my two small children. The assumption that there is a power imbalance for one single woman employing another is not necessarily true.
    When I previously worked overseas as a single person and accidentally fell pregnant, I made a choice – I had an abortion rather than return to my own country to give birth, because I was not eligible for maternity leave where I was working. The alternative was to return home and have the child. I chose not to, and so can helpers.
    We all make choices and we need to live with the results of those choices. Use contraception, and if you don’t and fall pregnant, have an abortion or go home.

  • Jadie Chung

    i didnt see those overstaying domestic helpers are so desperated or no future.As i see in kam Tin, they enjoy their life so much as a full time mum which many hk wonen didnt have luck to have this choices as life is tough and helpless from the government. They can always hanging out around with those similar background women and they have lots of allowance from many NGOs. life maynot be easy but al least they can enjoy it without any efforts….. why they said no choice? they can go back their hubby or their own coubtries…but many of them they are scared because they are supposed has married in their home coubtries but have messy relationship in hk to make them pregnant in hk.They are ashamed to go home…everybody need to be responsible for their own decision. even in hk, we keep counting and planning to have one baby. Cos no free lunch in the world, different countires have different policy…why that NGos foreigner not to invite their countries to take over those moms and helping them if they said hk conditions to helpers are so bad. Be a responsible parent, we give birth we make aure can take care of.However, as i observed in Yuen Long, many overstaying helpers they keep making babies…but now crying for no aids from us…..Moreover, ther working ethic is totally different with hk or world standard, we pregnant, we still try our best to fulfill our work,but many cases from empolyers group told us they would be sit down or,sleep all time and claims they are sick but get pay for ten month as,a queen…finally the empolyer need to hire other helper to take care of her….will our boss would be like that to us in hk? Honestly, if those domestic helpers would cause us many troubles like that and also bring many hidden worry about welfare, identity problems to hk, I would support hk stop all input of DH. pls give us back more child care services, as today quality of DH is also in questions

  • Jadie Chung

    Their ultimate or ideal arrangement shpuld be