A video showing foreign domestic helpers gathering on cardboard boxes in the streets of Hong Kong (HK) has gone viral on social media, with many viewers debating whether their lifestyle should be looked down upon.
The video: In the video uploaded to Instagram by content creator “Sam the Explorer,” the domestic helpers can be seen sitting on cardboard boxes while playing games and sharing snacks or meals together.
“My first time in Hong Kong and I thought these people were homeless, but oh man, was I wrong,” Sam narrates. “They are the so-called FDH (Foreign Domestic Helpers). They are essentially nannies who work six days a week for rich people in Hong Kong, and they only have one day of rest during the week. On every Sunday, they gather together to socialize and make friends with other nannies. Honestly, they’re one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
In the video, Sam also asks one domestic helper why they sit on cartons, to which the woman says, “free place to stay.” The woman also reveals her monthly income of 4,730 Hong Kong dollars ($604) and says that her happiness level is a seven on a scale of zero to 10 “because it’s really hard [to be] far away from your family.” According to other domestic helpers Sam spoke to, many of them have been nannies in Hong Kong for about 10 years or more.
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Reactions: Sam’s video has garnered mixed reactions, with some viewers offering explanations for the nannies’ situations and calling him out for “disrespectfully” filming them, while others expressed sympathy for the women and shared their own stories.
“They are homeless since they need to live 24/7 in the employee's home and only way to socialize is on the streets. That's sad and it shows the exploitation by rich HKers,” one viewer wrote.
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“They obviously don't wanna be filmed wtf bro at least cover their faces, so disrespectful for no reason,” another person said.
“These aren't nannies for rich people. These are nannies for every family that has children. It's the norm to have Filipino nannies to help you taking care of your children and doing household chores. They usually live at their employees house for free as well the entire time. Giving that housing is extremely expensive in HK, this is not a bad deal at all. And after 7 years they can apply for the HKID which allows them to stay in HK permanently and basically get away from the Philippines. That's pretty much the green card of HK. This video does not provide enough detail about any of that,” one person explained.
“I'm brought up by FDHs, no we're not rich. Most parents in HK both work and it's illegal to leave children alone at home so a lot of families have FDH,” another viewer shared. “Yes it's normal, no it's not as bad as black slavery nor is it as bad as modern slavery. I can't speak for all, but at least for every person I know who has an FDH, they are treated as family.”
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About foreign domestic helpers: Hong Kong has over 340,000 foreign domestic helpers, mostly women from the Philippines and Indonesia who seek higher wages abroad to financially support their families. Many of these women, who work under low wages, reportedly have limited rights and protections, leading them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and institutional obstacles.
As helpers are essential to the city's functioning, the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers have called for a wage increase of almost one-third, according to Financial Times. Helpers support their families back home, but the financial demands, including agency fees, create additional burdens.
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