Our Desk | For the well-being of domestic workers

Lynzy Valles

The appalling, horrendous story of abuse that Erwiana faced in Hong Kong as a domestic helper raises awareness of how modern slavery is still present today.

I will not be tackling issues about how these domestic helpers are in need of rights protection, or their long working hours. I am aware that the tone in my recent columns has been in favor of the rights of such workers.

I think what I realized during the film screening of Erwiana’s story is that it isn’t enough for several migrant groups and/or researchers to help stop the abuse of these employees, or to raise awareness of such issues.

Cheers to the employers who treat their workers as part of their family; kudos to the local and non-local employers who treat domestic work as work, and not some kind of slavery.

It would be unfair not to speak about the shameful fact that modern slavery still exists – reported or not – both in Macau and Hong Kong.

Domestic workers face several migration-related stressors that are highly likely to affect their health, so concrete and accurate data should be studied in order to understand how their health is also affected when encountering legal and institutional constraints.

The oppressive living and working conditions of some domestic employees pose threats to their mental well-being, so I consider the efforts of the University of Macau’s Population Research Initiative for Domestic Employees (PRIDE) extremely beneficial in assisting and promoting the well-being of the domestic worker community in Macau.

As the population research initiative for domestic employees aims to recruit more than 3,000 domestic helpers, this comprehensive study could yield accurate data which could be used to aid the community in the future.

With the group’s measurement of physical and mental heath to gather data about types of possible stressors, the study would hopefully have the potential to produce concrete data, which could be submitted to the government in a bid to promote the protection of domestic workers.

The data also covers whether workers experience uncomfortable living due to cramped housing, remittance strain, abusive practices and more.

As previously reported by the Times, PRIDE’s preliminary data shows many domestic helpers work more than their stipulated hours per week.

I know the data has a long way to go in terms of concluding how the current practices affect workers’ physical and mental health, but at least there is an effort to improve the well-being of these vulnerable groups.

In a region that accommodates some 25,587 domestic workers, it’s appropriate for the city to be able to provide such statistics on factors that negatively and positively affect domestic workers’ welfare.

The region has heard countless stories of how these vulnerable migrants are mistreated, but seldom hears of how it affects their health.

It would be unfair for these migrant workers to contribute in the region and return home with physical and mental health issues.

With such research, the study could provide recommendations for better protection of the region’s domestic employees.

This research should not be underestimated, as it would significantly contribute not only to the welfare of the region’s immigrants but also advance the region’s labor law, which could potentially lead to better rights protection.

Categories Opinion