B&W Photography: Foreign domestic helpers on their day off

It was Sunday when I shot the pictures of the circular footbridge in Causeway Bay… so of course, I saw many helpers out on the street.

Helpers in CWB 1

Helpers in CWB 2

There are more than 300,000 foreign domestic helpers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia, working in Hong Kong and the monthly minimum wage is 4,040 HKD (helpers whose bosses do not provide food will have their monthly allowance raised to 920 HKD a month).

Helpers in CWB 3

Helpers in CWB 4

Even if some argue that this is more than the current poverty line (which sits at 3,600 HKD for a one-person household) it is not a lot of money. After spending on food and phone bills there will not be much left to send back home – so no wonder that the helpers choose to spend their Sundays and public holidays engaging in something that comes free: meeting with other helpers somewhere in Hong Kong’s public space.

Often those helpers will sit in one of the parks or walkways and just pass their time chatting, eating, playing cards, doing each other’s hair or nails and sometimes they will sing and dance. This might be nice on a sunny day, but on a rainy day it is sad.

Helpers in CWB 5

Helpers in CWB 6

Foreign migrant workers have made a major contribution to Hong Kong in terms of its economic growth – but do they get the recognition they deserve? Not all do. There are many sad cases about helpers being exploited.

Helpers at IFC bridge

On December 1st a ‘HK Helpers Campaign’ will launch. Head over to http://hongwrong.com/ to find out more. For example, this this interesting series by French photographer Gratiane de Moustier, who followed Indonesian girls from their training camp in Java to their final place of employment – the homes of Hong Kong families.

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