Domestic workers gather in Central on Hong Kong Island. Photo: Asia Times

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Domestic workers have been an integral part of Hong Kong’s community for a long time but the city has been facing a shortage of household helpers in recent years, and a key factor is employers’ poor treatment of their maids.

A commentary published in Apple Daily on Friday blamed local employers cause such shortage.

In the newspaper column, journalist Fan Wing-shum said domestic workers from the Philippines made up half of the 352,000 foreign workers in the city.

However, despite increasing demand, employment agents said fewer Filipinos were willing to come to Hong Kong. Part of the reason was the tightening labor export policy implemented by the Philippine government – but the main reason was the way local employers treat their workers, Fan said.

One female employer, purportedly is a “freak” about cleaning, would not allow an outsider to use the washing machine and told her maid to wash her own clothes by hand or at a laundry.

She also asked if the domestic could wash her clothes on her days off – and bear the fee on her own if she washes them at a laundry.

Another case involved a family of six living in a flat that was too small and had little space for the domestic worker, so the employer arranged for her to sleep in the kitchen, which was dangerous.

On top of that, the employer was a shift worker who went to the kitchen to make late-night snacks and thus disrupted the maid’s ability to get a decent night’s sleep.

Fan said there were too many troubling cases, such as the worker hit by her employer’s children and others involving maids who were overworked.

However, most domestic workers came to Hong Kong to work for a family and they had little choice but to tolerate as much as they could.

The writer appealed to employers not to be too harsh on their domestic workers.

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