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Housemaid in Hong Kong: Where hundreds of thousands of women have to live with their boss



Housemaid in Hong Kong: Where hundreds of thousands of women have to live with their boss

Foreign domestic workers, he knows, often get a much higher salary than he can find at home. Before he arrived, the recruitment agency found him a job as a maid – a job that included being a housemaid, personal cook, caregiver and caregiver.

And like almost all maids in Hong Kong, he is legally required to stay at his employer’s house.

What he said followed was six months of physical and emotional abuse so tortured that he violated his contract and escape. “My whole body died for him,” said Marta, now 37, who asked for a pseudonym to protect her identity. “He is the dark one in my life.”

The persecution described by Marta is not uncommon in Hong Kong, home to more than 390,000 workers, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Nearly 10% of the workforce in this city, these women – only about 1% of workers are male – are an integral part of Hong Kong’s economy and daily life. But they are also one of the city’s most vulnerable communities.

In a survey Of the 5,023 helpers last year, 15% of respondents said they had been physically abused while working. And 2% reported experiencing sexual harassment or harassment, according to the advocacy organization Mission For Migrant Workers (MFMW), which conducted the survey.

Problems with poor working and living conditions are common complaints.

Activists say the residence rules, which are only released by the government in exceptional circumstances, force women to live with potentially abusive employers with little recourse.

After Marta left her first employer, she said that she faced periods of homelessness and unemployment – at one point sleeping on a mattress on the floor of her church – before finding a new job.

Now, back on his feet, he tried to change the rules of residence – by taking him to court.

A brief History

Foreign domestic workers began arriving in Hong Kong in the 1970s, a decade of rapid economic development that saw the city turn from a bad manufacturing center into financial capital with modern urban infrastructure.

Local women want to join the workforce, and open work visas for maids “free housewives from domestic work for taking work,” according to the 2005 report by Hong Kong Security Bureau.

Helpers are usually tasked with cleaning their employer’s household, buying groceries, cooking food, caring for children and the elderly, and various other important tasks.

For decades, some workers lived with their employers while others chose to stay outside – but in 2003, the authorities made the rules of residence mandatory. They claimed doing so would “better reflect the policy intentions” behind bringing foreign workers – to fill gaps in permanent, full-time domestic services, especially important for those who need 24-hour care such as people with disabilities or elderly residents living alone.

There are no such shortcomings for part-time or non-residence services, so allowing foreign workers to stay will place them in direct competition with local workers, the government argues.

The rules stipulate that employers provide “suitable accommodation” with “reasonable privacy,” but offer a number of other guidelines. Employers are required to disclose the size of their apartment and the type of accommodation for servants – for example, private space or partitioned area of ​​the house – in employment contract, which is then signed by the helper.

But there are no standards or requirements for how much minimum helper space should be provided, and the vague “fit” words mean some are made to sleep in poor conditions, such as in the bathroom or on the floor.

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If a maid breaks the rules by living outside, they face a ban on working in Hong Kong – and employers may be prohibited from hiring helpers. They can even be sued for providing false information, being sentenced to imprisonment or heavy fines.

No privacy, no rest

Since its introduction, the rule has attracted a lot of criticism, which says it exacerbates the challenges faced by helpers in their demanding role.

For example, Hong Kong has long struggled with limited housing space and high housing prices. Many families live in cramped apartments with narrow spaces for their families, especially servants.

In this environment, helpers often complain about long working hours, lack of privacy, and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. There is also the risk of harassment from their employers; when that happens, leaving work is rarely an option. This will threaten their visa status, employment and ability to support their families.

Dolores Balladares, 50, from the Philippines, arrived in Hong Kong when he was 25 years old.

He said that in his first job, he did not have his own room. Instead, her employer put up a thin privacy curtain, similar to what was used around a hospital bed, around a sofa in the living room. At the end of his workday, Balladares will draw a curtain around him and struggle to sleep.

Her employer and their children will still watch television just steps from the same room.

“That is very demeaning,” Balladares said of his first job.

In addition, living in means that there is no real difference between the workspaces of many helpers and personal living space: all are the same household. The limits of work life can be completely dissolved, especially since there are no laws regarding maximum working hours per day or week.

Balladares said he often worked more than 12 hours a day, sometimes waking up at 5 in the morning and not sleeping until almost 1 in the morning.

“It’s a family of five, both parents are working and the children are all learning, so I do everything,” he said. “From preparing breakfast to taking the kids to the school bus, then going to the market, ironing, teaching the children their homework, cleaning the house, and cooking before I go to bed at night.”

Although the law mandates a helper to be given a full 24-hour rest day every week, that often does not happen. On his day off, Balladares said he would still be asked to clean the family’s car before going to meet his friends – and he was told to go home at 8 pm. so he can clean the dishes and help bathe the children.

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In the MFMW survey, more than half of respondents said that, like Balladares, they did not have their own room, and instead had “alternative sleeping arrangements.” Often the maid shares a bed with one of the family’s children.

More than half said they worked between 11 and 16 hours per day, while 44% said they worked more than 16 hours. Nearly half said they were asked to work during their rest days. Another 29% said they were not given enough food, which the employer must provide legally, or provide benefits for it.

Choose between security and income

Many helpers who face this condition, or physical and sexual abuse, are often reluctant to report it to the authorities for fear of endangering their livelihood. Taking legal action will drain your finances and emotions, and can potentially deter potential employers – not an easy risk to take when you have family members at home to be supported.

If workers leave their jobs before their two-year contract expires, they have 14 days to find new work – or they must leave Hong Kong, unless they have “extraordinary approval,” according to guidelines by Department of Immigration.
Hong Kong housewives were jailed for six years for abusing young Indonesian maids
Various global humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International and United Nations Human Rights Committee, has called on the Hong Kong government to revoke regulation 14 today, citing the government preventing workers from leaving the cruel or exploitative situation.

“The problem here is that (stay-in) rules make them vulnerable,” said Karen Ng, a case manager at the nonprofit organization HELP for Domestic Workers. “This forces workers to choose between their safety and make money to support their families.”

Even if the aides speak, they often do not have enough evidence for the police to help them, Ng added – when they stayed, the only witness was a family member of the employer.

The most famous maid abuse case caught the attention of the city in 2015, when Hong Kong’s housewife, Law Wan-tung was found guilty of abusing her work, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a 23-year-old woman from Indonesia.

Law regularly beat Erwiana with a mop handle and clothes hanger, and forced her to sleep on the floor, only five hours a night. Erwiana was given only a small amount of food, and warned that her parents would be killed if she told anyone.

Former Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih spoke during an event in Hong Kong on March 27, 2016.
During Erwiana’s trial, Law’s two children, who lived in the flat during the abuse, did not provide evidence to their mother. One testifies that he is “gentle” to the servants.

Although the Law was sentenced to six years in prison, no systemic changes were followed.

In a report released later that year, the government said changing residence rules would burden the city’s public transportation and housing system, and would “contradict the reasons for importing FDH and the fundamental policy that local employees (including local domestic helpers) should enjoy priorities in employment. . ”

A year later, Marta filed a lawsuit against the regulation.

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A fight to change the rules

In 2016, Marta submitted an application for judicial review, arguing that the rules of residence were discriminatory and increased the risk of violating the basic rights of helpers.

The maid only wants the choice to live, she and other activists argue – and not all of them will take it. Many helpers who have a good working relationship with their employer appreciate the frugal element in the cost of living, which allows them to send more money home to the family.

Some employers also choose to have the option if they feel uncomfortable inviting strangers to live in their homes.

Hong Kong unsung hero: Mother made the ultimate sacrifice

In such cases, some employers agree to pay their workers to live in illegal boarding houses, which offer shared rooms and public areas. Helpers get their own space, privacy, and more control over their work hours – but also face a high risk, because the police sometimes carry out raids.

“I want freedom – freedom of choice,” Marta said. “Why not try to get freedom for both employers and employees?”

But the first challenge failed. In 2018, the judge rejected the case and upheld the rule, arguing that in the case of persecution, the problem was a bad employer – not the fact that the worker lived in the same house.

“There is not enough evidence” that the rules of residence significantly increase the risk of violations of basic rights, or that the rules directly cause harassment, the judge wrote.

The government praised the dismissal, adding in a statement that workers could “terminate the contract at any time” if they did not want to live with their employers.

The statement did not mention the 14-day rule, or the fact that many workers who left their contracts legally had to return to their home countries, before re-applying for work and visas again.

The government’s response sparked outrage among aides and activists.

A lens into the hidden lives of Hong Kong domestic workers

“We should not regard domestic workers as fugitives – ‘You don’t like the conditions, don’t come,'” Ng said. “They contribute a lot to society, so why can’t we see them that way? We have to consider that they have rights, they have needs.”

Marta now lives with a new employer who she thinks treats her well, respects her work hours, and gives her a room of her own. He has found a caring community in his church and is working to heal – but says he is still against the rules.

He has appealed the ruling and is waiting for the court to issue his decision. It is not clear when the judgment will come.

“If the employer is good, that’s fine – but what about workers who have no food, no space and no rest, then no choice and no freedom?” he says.

“I don’t just fight for myself but fight for others. I think of others – so they have choices.”

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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