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Helper issues. help please

  1. #25
    elle is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by mummymoo View Post
    Thanka2 I'm not saying that the job would be a great one for the helper at all, I'm just citing some mitigating reasons why if a family only has $10 for meat why the helper might not get any meat at all or be underfed like the rest of the family.

    The choice of nursing home or staying with the family is really no choice at all if you can't afford the nice nursing homes. The places are really, really, really atrocious. Don't think about these homes from a western standard - that would be luxe in HK.... Moreover, if it is a choice between 6000HKD and a complete dump of place vs 4000 + in the family home where you can oversee the care of your father/mother with helper back up for work hours then the choice is straight forward, well to me anyway but I do agree the situation would be pretty horrendous for the helper.

    anyway charade is right, this has nothing to do with the OP.
    Life is tough, but if you can't afford to meet your obligations when hiring a domestic helper (and paying them at least a minimum wage and either a food allowance or adequate food) then you shouldn't do it - find another way to deal with your hardship. Letting a low wage employee who is in all liklihood in a more desparate financial situation that you are go hungry and become malnourished (while, apparently, doing some pretty heavy duty work as taking care of the elderly is very physically demanding) because you can't afford it simply wrong.
    thanka2, shwetakhanna and Gracey like this.

  2. #26
    Portia is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by thanka2 View Post
    Doesn't make much sense to me to be hiring a helper if you're in such financial straits. There is a reason why immigration checks your income and bank account (of course it's not too difficult to make it look like you've got plenty of money in the bank, though) before they okay a foreign helper application.
    Without getting into the issues about why this particular helper is getting very little to eat, just want to point out that Immigration will only check to make sure the household earns a minimum of $15,000 per month, so there are families who don't earn much who still have a helper.
    HK2008 likes this.

  3. #27
    mummymoo is offline Registered User
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    Thanka2, I always respect your input but in this case I must disagree. Although we have far digressed from the OP posted, I want to clarify that I think that there would be situations where I or one of the GB crowd would feel was cruel to a helper that another person might not. Sometimes it is a matter of opinion. For example if the a helper was receiving a share of the meager meat a family eats then that family may not feel they are being cruel to the helper. Some families allow their helper only to eat the 'local food' and not the imported stuff, can you see how some would call this unfair to the helper whilst some think it is perfectly au fait?

    Example two, if a helper has to share a room with a child, some on this forum would feel this is an invasion of privacy and cruel to the helper but what if everyone in the family had to share rooms? Should a family that can't afford a private room for the helper not have a helper. Personally I think this should be the case (in fact my helpers even have a lounge area but am I right to insist that any one who doesn't provide this for their helpers is an unfair undeserving employer?) After living here a while I can see that in the absence of affordable quality childcare, this may be the only option.

    same as the example of the local family where gramps is in need of care and they can't afford and don't want the terrible care in the state run nursing homes. I don't know the family well but I don't think they are unkind people. They pay the minimum wage to the helper, she eats whatever they eat and its probably not what you or I would call a nutritious meal, and I certainly don't want that job, but are they being cruel to their helper - well that is a matter of opinion.....
    Editor, carang, matemate and 3 others like this.

  4. #28
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    Sorry, Mummymoo, But I agree with Thanka here.
    If you cannot afford to house and feed your helper decently, as required by law, you should not have a helper.
    It's a tough call. And it's terrible that some Hong Kong families are very poor. But two wrongs don't make a right.

    While there may be some families direly in need, I hear plenty of these excuses ("we don't have extra money," "we don't have anyone to take care of grandma/ baby on Sunday", "those women would suffer back home anyway", "I got a paycut so I'll cut her pay, too") from perfectly fine working-class and middle-class Hong Kongers looking for excuse to underfeed, underpay and overwork their helpers.

    Outside HK, having full-time, live-in help is a luxury.

    It's awful that some HK social services are bad for the elderly and ill. But I don't think we should take that out on a Filipina helper. It's not her fault.

  5. #29
    mummymoo is offline Registered User
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    Gracey, there is no question that employers MUST follow the law when it comes to domestic helpers - it starts to become a bit grey when people seek to become the one voice and dictate to others what the interpretation of that it.

    What do you mean by housing and feeding a helper 'decently'. It may mean different things to different people. To some people housing a helper decently means their own private room and a private toilet. To others who all share rooms, it wouldn't be correct to give the helper her own private room when everyone else shares.

    What do you mean by decent food. To a large number of my friends, they feel food from the wet market is not fit for human consumption because of the food abuses from China. Does that mean if a family eats food from the wet market and gives it to the helper that they are being indecent? Or what if the family eats all imported stuff and gives the helper a food allowance and the helper can't afford to eat from imported goods, is this an example of indecent treatment of a helper? Can you see that shy of violating the existing laws, interpretation of decency is very much a judgemental decision and one should try to aim for tolerance in this respect.

    I think its up to immigration to make the call as to whether or not an employer meets the bare legal obligations to enable them to employ a helper. After that an assessment of individual intentions usually reveals whether people are being fair to their helper or not.

  6. #30
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by mummymoo View Post
    What do you mean by decent food. To a large number of my friends, they feel food from the wet market is not fit for human consumption because of the food abuses from China. Does that mean if a family eats food from the wet market and gives it to the helper that they are being indecent? Or what if the family eats all imported stuff and gives the helper a food allowance and the helper can't afford to eat from imported goods, is this an example of indecent treatment of a helper? Can you see that shy of violating the existing laws, interpretation of decency is very much a judgemental decision and one should try to aim for tolerance in this respect.
    Thinking back to the part of the thread that got us on the topic of food, I think we were basically talking about caloric intake...meaning...is the helper able to eat enough (amount) of food to get enough calories to work at her optimum? We were talking about employers who ration out food and helpers who are literally going hungry because of that. Not because they're turning their nose up in the air at food offered or because they has such expensive tastes that a food reasonable food allowance cannot see them through the month. We weren't talking about picky helpers--we're talking about employers who are not treating their helpers as they would like to be treated in the same circumstances. At least that's my take.
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  7. #31
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    My Mummymoo -- By decent, I mean minimal and decent. Nobody is saying the helper should get imported special food or a private room, especially from a poor family.
    But coming from a HK family, I've (very sadly) seen helpers sit around watching the whole family eat, just to have the mom set aside a very small bowl of leftovers for her to eat afterwards.
    My own helper comes to me with tales of her friends who are given just a loaf of white bread to parse out for themselves, and who are actually physically hungry and weak unless they dip into their own savings to fill up. On Sundays, my helper often brings nice food and leftovers from our house, and they call her the "rich one."
    Of course, everyone should follow the law. But many HK families do not. And since it's a one-on-one case, it's very hard for the authorities to check that every helper is being decently fed.
    As for the family with the grandpa -- I feel bad for them. My point is that the government should help these sorts of people.
    But if (and this is a big if, as I don't know them)... if they or anyone other family can't afford to feed another mouth decently, then they should not bring a full-time helper into their home.
    Maybe this is or is not the case of the grandpa family.
    But I've seen families who seem otherwise very nice and decent in all other ways still treating Filipinas or Indonesians in a way that they would never do to a fellow Hong Kong.
    I have one lovely older relative who makes her helper work 7 days a week. She has a good reason -- they aren't rich, there are two elderly people who need care -- but her daughter tells her she's still wrong. This lady's life is hard, but it's not fair to spread her misery to an employee who came to HK seeking decent treatment.
    Her daughter said, "Wouldn't you be upset if I got hired overseas and didn't have a vacation for a year?"
    But this traditional HK woman just insisted that -- if her needs were great enough, the rights of the helper didn't matter.
    These attitudes are very common.
    Last edited by Gracey; 06-20-2012 at 12:49 AM.

  8. #32
    mummymoo is offline Registered User
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    My issue is not cases where it is clearly wrong and the helper has not been given enough to eat but cases where people seem to want to pass judgement on others and be right in terms of what they think is appropriate or decent food for a helper. The way I see it - it is the INTENTION which is important. If a family eats poorly and with not much meat _which is what started this whole discussion anyway, and the helper as a consequence doesn't get much meat, then I don't think you can automatically say the family is not being decent. In fact, for me personally, I would conclude that the helpers diet is much the same as the family's and although I don't think it is a nutritious diet, I'm not always right and have no right to dictate what another family should or should not eat.

    In terms of seeing for yourself the ill treatment and food deprivation of some helpers, then I think not taking a stand is somehow worse than not seeing it. I had a problem with my MIL and FIL who used to give adequate amounts of food to their helper but would only allow the helper to eat after the family has eaten, and sometimes although there was a meat dish, vegetables and a fish dish, only the head of the fish and some bones of this fish in addition to the meat and veggies would be left. I took a stand and repeatedly told them how wrong I though this was and eventually my MIL has now started giving the helper a food allowance as she didn't want to have to deal with me. It wasn't wrong per se for the helper to be eating left overs - our whole family eats leftovers as do our helpers BUT in my MIL and FIL's home they never ate leftovers, and I don't feel that you should make someone a second class citizen by insisting they only eat leftovers when you don't. That's hypocrisy pure and simple.

    It wasn't easy to change my MIL and FIL but eventually I did. Even my husband notices that now they are more kind and polite to their helpers instead of just 'seeing though them'.

    In terms of your elderly relative, well all I can say is that her daughter can try to do more, like pay for someone to fill in on Sundays if she really feels strongly about the helpers case. Look the old lady and her hubby are just looking out for number one, but if an outsider sees that and appreciates it's unjust then they should try and do something about it.

    Unlike you, I have never encountered any of my friends or family's helpers who did not have enough to eat so I can't speak from experience. My helpers have never told me that any of their friends have gone hungry, although they have told me of their starvation when they were back in the Phillipines. Food is so cheap here that I struggle to see how one could starve in Hong Kong but I accept your experiences, and know in an intellectual way anyway that there is great poverty in Hong Kong. I have seen but one example only.

    At the end of the day, Gracey you say the attitudes towards and treatment of helpers here is not great but I guess that means its up to us as a collective to change this, even if it means having to do some work/fork out some money ourselves or be a bit more outspoken. Otherwise things will never chnage and we'll always be bemoaning the ill treatment of helpers on some forum like this........

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