Filipina and Indonesian workers

Sunday is a great sight over much of developed Asia. It’s the day of the week when the Filipina and Indonesian workers congregate on their day off….though in many cases it’s only every other Sunday.

Largest swathes of public space are reserved by these workers from early in the morning. I walked along the covered walkways on Sunday morning at just after 9am. Both sides of the walkways were reserved by placing cardboard matting on the ground. Ladies were sewing together more cardboard to make windbreakers. Most of the workers were not there yet, still completing their morning chores before they get their day of freedom. For those already there, they are preparing food, listening to music or playing cards. This sight is repeated all over the city, in every spare alcove.


In Hong Kong, these workers are called Helpers, though Doers would be much more accurate. Obviously it depends on the family, but these workers often do all the domestic work in the home. Every single piece of cleaning; cooking of every meal; buying of all the shopping; ferrying of the children and often all things connected with the children (homework, feeding and discipline). Most workers have their own children back home, so they have good experience.

In Singapore, the workers are called maids. However, the problem of maid abuse was so significant that maid school (a four hour Employers Orientation Programme) was introduced a few years ago. Wives had to attend this to get the permit for the maid. Here you learnt about how to treat your maid:
– You should give them between 10am and 4pm off every other Sunday. It’s not a law mind you, just a guideline
– You should give them clear instructions on how to use all appliances and how to cook the food you like
– You should allow them to go home once a year
– You shouldn’t hit them (much bigger problem than one might expect).

And, of course, this trade in labour makes good economic sense. For the Filipina, it provides income for the whole family. Young children are cared for by the grandmothers or fathers while the mother looks after a richer family and sends home most of their income. For the Philippines, remittances from foreign domestic workers (FDWs) account for just under 15% of total GDP. Wealth is redistributed.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the trade in maids, I salute the sacrifices you make for your own families.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Melville on January 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    We must not foirget all thopse who man the world’s cruise liners. As for being hit, I should imagine fort some of them that is the lesser problem. Another interesting post Julian and I am sure that your own girls treat your little helper with respect.


  2. Posted by lb on January 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    yes, they are nice to me


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