Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Jardine's Lookout Residents' Association Pool and helper musings


We had a great time yesterday afternoon at the pool. Actually there are two pools, the big one in the foreground and also a little baby pool. We were the only people there....it's so hidden away, you would never guess it was there. The path's a bit overgrown and it's set down several staircases from the road, through a rusty old wrought iron gate. It's like something out of a story book. I took both of the boys and Vergenia, but was astounded to hear that "Auntie's* feet must not touch the water". So I had to try and manage J and F at the same time - no mean feat! there was no drowning, so it all turned out ok.

It's kind of hard to believe that such rules exist in 2011. Helpers in this city often look after kids 12+ hours a day, on their own while both parents work. One family I know went on holiday to Europe for 2 weeks, leaving their 15 month old with their helper (who they fired shortly after they got back because she was "useless") They take them to the dr, to school, to playdates, and yet they are not allowed to swim with them in many swimming pools. This seems like blatant discrimination; here's Mr Know-it-all's opinion, and there's more discussion here. This is one of those ocassions when I wonder where the truth lies. The argument is often put forward that not all of the members of these clubs / housing complexes are ok with helpers using the facilities. As a non-Chinese reader / speaker it's all too easy for me to assume that it's Chinese residents who object....but maybe they assume that it's the Westerners who object?

I didn't question the rule yesterday (since I was a guest of a member and didn't feel it was my place), I just said OK and ignored the rule. I needed Vergenia's help, and after warning us the superintendant lady went away and left us alone, so we just got on with it.

(*Auntie is one of the more popular names for helpers in HK. Chinese kids often call their helpers "zhe zhe" which means older sister. As the boys grow up, I am encouraging them to call Vergenia "ya ya" which is Tagalog; I understand that it means something between auntie and nurse, it's supposedly a very affectionate term for someone who looks after you and is very close to the family."Amah" is the Chinese term for a helper, implying someone who's both a child carer and maid - it's a respectful term.)

There's a case that's being disputed here at the moment. In its simplest terms, it's an appeal against discrimination. The law states that anyone who has lived in Hong Kong for at least 7 years and can prove their ability to support themselves financially, has the right to become a "Permanent Resident". Among other things, this means that any of your family who do not live here are entitled to move to Hong Kong. EXCEPT....if you are a domestic helper. None of this applies to domestic helpers, who have often been here many years (Vergenia's been here 10 years now). The government's main argument seems to be that changing this law to include domestic hepers would have a huge impact on society, health care, etc (no kidding, there are around 284,900 helpers in Hong Kong, half from the Phillipines and half from Indonesia).

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