HELPERS – Photo Project: Why Do You Do What You Do? 21


As Indonesian maids rallied at their consulate on Sunday, HK-based Irish photographer Gráinne Quinlan (famed for her ‘elderly Tai Chi‘ series) was busy shooting in nearby Victoria Park…

Erna

We asked several foreign domestic workers why they left their home country to work in another city (a city which often treats them a second-class citizens)…

April

Each portrait carries an optimistic, positive message. It is a reminder that everyone shares similar motivations and hopes for the future – no matter where they stand in Hong Kong society…

Tara

The photo set is based on the WYDYWYD.com (Why Do You Do What You Do?) project – a global social media meme.

Ciwi

Many members our competitive city’s middle class are so over-worked that they hire helpers to help support their families, often in their absence. In turn, helpers themselves are are working every day to support their own families, despite also being absent.

Awahha

Each helper who took part was free to write anything they wished…

Fifi

Linda

Mustofiah

Ning

Qania

Tara

Widi

Winnie

Yulia

The helpers in this final shot are sisters…

Jariyah & Linda

Gráinne holds a BA in photography from the Dublin Institute of Technology and has worked in New York as part the Elk artist collective and with the Mary Ellen Mark studio.

s94GlxDl.jpg (640×185)

Domestic workers are not entitled to the minimum hourly wage in HK and cannot obtain permanent residency, no matter how many decades some have resided in the city. Maids receive a meagre HK$3,920 per month, are legally obliged to ‘live in’ (a rule which is counter to international standards) and must leave the territory in order to begin new contracts with new employers. Those who find themselves out of work must find a new employer within a fortnight or risk deportation – a rule condemned by the UN. More than half are abused in some manner and many are heavily indebted to their placement agencies, who charge exorbitant fees, contrary to international guidelines.

Today’s exclusive feature forms part of a series leading to the launch of a separate ‘HK Helpers Campaign’ – a coalition of NGOs and activists united to spark debate and effect change for Foreign Domestic Helpers. If you are a fellow blogger or media organisation, our coverage/photos are available for re-syndication free-of-charge, please get in touch.

Click here for a collection of Hong Kong desktop wallpapers. You may also enjoy…


  • oblivia

    Fascinating

  • oblivia

    Fascinating

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  • chasiubao

    however tragic their stories are I am completely unsympathetic for their cause. Deport them and have them come back in on work visas.. pay rent.. pay taxes.. pay for their own food, expenses, and health care.. If anything they should go back to the philippines / indonesia / thailand / burma and protest their own governments for exploiting them to other countries for the lack of opportunities back home.

    Why would I pay taxes to support migrant workers who barely contribute to our society. All their income is quickly offloaded and shipped off home.. it does nothing for our local economy. I’d gladly pay for housing and other government subsidies for the poor HK citizens who actually contribute. (Not freeloading mainlanders either.. but that is a whole different shit storm topic) The workers who work 16+ hour shifts everyday cleaning up the piles of trash left behind by migrant workers. The hard working blue collared citizens of HK who are the backbone of our little city.

    Helpers in reality make much more than the minimum wage. That “4k” goes straight to their pocket (assuming they paid off their initial debt) and honestly 4k is just for the first year.. they’re entitled to pay raises and health benefits paid leaves.. etc.. much better benefits than a lot of contract work and minimum wage earners get.

    I don’t live at home anymore but my parents have had the same helper for the last 7 years, she currently makes 9,000 a month. Since working for us.. she has paid off her debts.. bought a house back home.. sent her kid to school (single mom by the way).. and helped her parents open a grocery store as well. I am completely unsympathetic to this cause and I think it is utter horse shit to call it racial discrimination and human trafficking.

    • Tom

      Misinformed.

      *Helpers *are* on work visas.

      *Helpers are not allowed to pay rent.

      *Helpers don’t earn enough to pay taxes.

      *re: ‘barely contribute to society’ – the middle class and entire economy are reliant on domestic helpers, as are thousands of HK’s elderly people and children.

      *re: ‘straight to their pocket’ – almost all helpers send most of their money home as their families are reliant on their work.

      *The minimum wage is HK$3,920 for new contracts only.

      *There is no stipulation that wages must be raised year-on-year.

      *There is no mention of human trafficking in this article.

    • Dboy

      There’s quite a few dodgy assertions in here but this is by far my favourite;
      “The workers who work 16+ hour shifts everyday cleaning up the piles of trash left behind by migrant workers”

      All I can say is LOL. I’ll tell you what, if you want to make a point just make some stuff up.

    • Cas

      Barely contributed to the society?

      They are the reason why Hong Kong’s fathers and mothers can actually go to work and make Hong Kong works.

  • chasiubao

    however tragic their stories are I am completely unsympathetic for their cause. Deport them and have them come back in on work visas.. pay rent.. pay taxes.. pay for their own food, expenses, and health care.. If anything they should go back to the philippines / indonesia / thailand / burma and protest their own governments for exploiting them to other countries for the lack of opportunities back home.

    Why would I pay taxes to support migrant workers who barely contribute to our society. All their income is quickly offloaded and shipped off home.. it does nothing for our local economy. I’d gladly pay for housing and other government subsidies for the poor HK citizens who actually contribute. (Not freeloading mainlanders either.. but that is a whole different shit storm topic) The workers who work 16+ hour shifts everyday cleaning up the piles of trash left behind by migrant workers. The hard working blue collared citizens of HK who are the backbone of our little city.

    Helpers in reality make much more than the minimum wage. That “4k” goes straight to their pocket (assuming they paid off their initial debt) and honestly 4k is just for the first year.. they’re entitled to pay raises and health benefits paid leaves.. etc.. much better benefits than a lot of contract work and minimum wage earners get.

    I don’t live at home anymore but my parents have had the same helper for the last 7 years, she currently makes 9,000 a month. Since working for us.. she has paid off her debts.. bought a house back home.. sent her kid to school (single mom by the way).. and helped her parents open a grocery store as well. I am completely unsympathetic to this cause and I think it is utter horse shit to call it racial discrimination and human trafficking.

    • Tom

      Misinformed.

      *Helpers *are* on work visas.

      *Helpers are not allowed to pay rent.

      *Helpers don’t earn enough to pay taxes.

      *re: ‘barely contribute to society’ – the middle class and entire economy are reliant on domestic helpers, as are thousands of HK’s elderly people and children.

      *re: ‘straight to their pocket’ – almost all helpers send most of their money home as their families are reliant on their work.

      *The minimum wage is HK$3,920 for new contracts only.

      *There is no stipulation that wages must be raised year-on-year.

      *There is no mention of human trafficking in this article.

      • Jswlam

        Housing in Hong Kong is from $8000, to over $10K depending on the area you live in. Even subdivided units cost around $4000 – $5000 with minimal shared space, and poor living environment. Deducting travel and meal expenses, millions of locals do not have even $3920 HKD savings in their pocket each month.Some domestic workers, despite how small their beds might look, live in multi billion dollar home. How lucky are they?

        Middle class could hire locals, to do housework if there is enough of us. They could pay hourly wage, and excuse additional housing and meal expenses, etc. I personally pay $1000 per month to have my housework done. Traditional Chinese care for their parents, and refuse to put them in homes. Without this value there will be no jobs for domestic workers. Hiring Domestic workers helps comfort the elderly, not because it is cheaper.

        Domestic workers come here for “a better life”, “a better future”, “for their children”. The retired domestic worker I had growing up, built a beautiful home, brought a van for her husband and started a business in Indonesia. Another domestic worker that took care of me some 20 years ago, wore Levis and other brand name clothing while working for us. She married a local Indian and permanently live in Hong Kong and she is now a mother of 3. If domestic workers are underpaid, why write “for better life” in the write broads above. They might as well say “to be abused”, “to be unpaid”, “to get away from my family” etc. If min wage was to be imposed on them, their dream will go with it. Come to Hong Kong, pay for your own travel arrangement, pay housing and meal expenses. Without any money to send home, domestic workers will not be able to support their family.

        One last question to ask yourself. If locals make $10,000 HKD to $20,000 HKD per month on a 9am to 6pm job. Deducting rent and other expenses, will they still be able to afford domestic workers? Why should locals directly transfer their savings into domestic worker’s pockets? APPRECIATE what is offered, and know that many domestic workers is making a better living than 1.3 Million locals in poverty.

    • Dboy

      There’s quite a few dodgy assertions in here but this is by far my favourite;
      “The workers who work 16+ hour shifts everyday cleaning up the piles of trash left behind by migrant workers”

      All I can say is LOL. I’ll tell you what, if you want to make a point just make some shit up.

    • Cas

      Barely contributed to the society?

      They are the reason why Hong Kong’s fathers and mothers can actually go to work and make Hong Kong works.

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  • Parker

    I love the pictures. Usually, they leave their homeland for a greener pasture despite the fact that they will no longer be able to be with their friends, kids, and families for quite some time. That’s one of the reasons why I also take good care of my family’s domestic helper. We treat them as part of the family. They eat with us, they go with us on family day, etc.

    I know that they’re doing their best and having lots of sacrifices to help their families back home and fortunately, our family is kind of lucky to have very loving and caring maids, through http://www.besthousekeeper.sg/ — a domestic helper agency here in Singapore. Let’s all treat them good.