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Blog // Travel
June 29, 2007

Those Crazy Letters

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of the local newspaper, the South China Morning Post. However, one highlight of my day is reading the letters to the editor page. In fact sometimes, that’s all I read since so much of the rest of the paper merits little more than a brief scanning. So […]

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of the local newspaper, the South China Morning Post. However, one highlight of my day is reading the letters to the editor page. In fact sometimes, that’s all I read since so much of the rest of the paper merits little more than a brief scanning.

So it was interesting to read this rant about a recent letter dealing with the issue of pay for domestic staff (via OrdinaryGweilo). Here’s the letter in question, from one K. Singh,

There have been calls for maids to be given a pay restoration.
Recently, helpers have received a 3 per cent pay rise whereas a civil service pensioner, like myself who worked for 40 years here, got just a 0.5 per cent rise. A helper here can buy land within two years working in Hong Kong and then build a brick and cement house in the next two years and then decorate and furnish it in the following two years. Can a single person in Hong Kong do that?

I live in a 400 sq ft flat, raised and educated my two children in it on a single civil servant’s pay. I couldn’t afford to buy a bigger flat. In Hong Kong a middle class couple finds it very hard to provide for children’s education as it is not cheap. Both parents have to work and therefore need a helper to look after the children and the home.

The Hong Kong government makes sure that maids are provided with servant quarters but, on the other hand, does not make any provisions for them when building the majority of flats, which are no better than chicken coops. Maids get Sundays and public holidays with no thoughts to working parents, who also need rest and a social life of their own. Hong Kong children and their parents should enjoy public holidays, away from their rabbit hutches and in the open air.

Those people who have called for better pay for maids, should try living in a typical Hongkonger’s shoes – make your children share their room with their helper and struggle to pay the exorbitant mortgage on the doll’s house that you live in.

This letter’s tone is pretty unsavory in my view and replete with political and social limitations. However, it belies an all-too-common attitude towards domestic help – in particular towards keeping such staff underpaid so that one can further one’s “lifestyle.”

What I love about this particular letters to the editor section is how random and representative it is. You get to read all sorts of opinions – thoughtful, biased, cosmopolitan, racist, egalitarian, exploitative and downright delusional. It’s a lot like life really. Moreover, in a city like Hong Kong that gives off an air of comfort and conformity, it is a welcome reminder of just diverse, non-homogenous and conflicting public opinion can be.

[tags] SCMP, Editor [/tags]

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