Published: Saturday 12 August, 2017

Limiting Aircon Use of HK Domestic Helpers is Inhumane, Discriminatory

Outrage greeted a proposal to limit the use of air conditioning of HK domestic helpers. The plan came about after an employer complained that her maid/domestic helper used air conditioning in her room without permission. Rights groups have called the plan discriminatory and inhumane.

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HK domestic helpers protesting in the streets of Hong Kong. (International Domestic Workers Federation)

The territory is home to more than 300,000 HK domestic helpers. The bulk of these are overseas Filipino workers (OFW) many of whom are college graduates in the Philippines but work as maid because of the much higher pay. Asides from Filipinos, another big bulk of Hong Kong maids are Indonesians.

The issue of limiting air-conditioning in maids’ rooms came about after a viral post of an employer complained that her maid used the aircon with permission. Posted in a Facebook closed group of local employers with foreign maids, the employer said she was very angry that her ‘audacious’ domestic helper did not seek her permission to use air-conditioning.

The controversial post, written in Chinese, has since been deleted but a screenshot was posted by Apple Daily newspaper.

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The Facebook post of the HK employer complaining about aircon use. (Facebook)

While Hong Kong enjoys temperate weather, its summers are hot and humid. And, with cramped quarters in most of Hong Kong flats, summers can be very uncomfortable without air-conditioning.

While the employer’s post was criticized by many readers, there are another who agreed with it. And on of them is local politician Michael Lee.

To make matters worse, Lee remarked that maids coming from hot countries should be accustomed to hot weather and thus, should not use air-conditioning! He also proposed that house rules for domestic helpers should be set up.

Rights groups are outraged over the issue. They claim that limiting the use of air-conditioning is inhumane. More so, to say that domestic helpers from hot countries should not use air-conditioning because they are already accustomed to such weather is discriminatory.

Migrant workers groups point out that HK mandates domestic helpers live-in with their employers and, as such, employers should provide them with comfortable working and sleeping conditions.