Eunice Yung Hoi-Yan (inset); Indonesian domestic workers gather in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island. Photos: Asia Times, HK Legislative Council

A pro-Beijing lawmaker has urged the Hong Kong government to set up more centers for domestic workers to use during their days off so they don’t gather in public places, which can affect other people’s daily lives.

New People’s Party lawmaker Eunice Yung Hoi-yan said the “problem” generated by the crowds of maids gathering in public areas of the city had persisted for many years and showed a worsening trend, according to a question Yung raised during a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday.

She said that during maids’ rest days, a large number of them gathered in parks, footbridge passages and places under flyovers, where they sit, eat and sleep on the ground, affecting other people’s daily lives and business. She also claimed that this problem also raised a public hygiene issue.

Yung asked whether the Hong Kong authorities would consider setting up more centers in various districts for convenient use by domestic workers.

Responding to Yung’s question, the secretary for labor and welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, said there were no plans at present to set up activity centers for maids like the one that opened in Kennedy Town in 1994.

Law said domestic workers contributed significantly to Hong Kong’s development as they help families with household chores and taking care of their children and the elderly, thereby unleashing the potential of the local labor force.

A Filipino domestic worker named Marilo told Apple Daily that she and her friends used to gather in a shopping mall but the staff asked them to leave unless they bought something. She hopes the government could provide places for maids to gather on their rest days.

Wong Hon-leung, a member of the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions, said the majority of Hongkongers had empathy toward domestic workers as they know the maids only have one day off per week.

Shiella Estrada, chairwoman of the Progressive Labour Union, said domestic workers were just like other Hongkongers who want to go to church or rest in a park on their days off, adding that they could not afford to rent a venue for a gathering place.

The union has urged the government to provide more venues for it to organize various training classes for domestic workers but has not received a reply.