Friday, May 11, 2012

Common Grounds of Termination of Contract of the Filipino Workers in Hong Kong

The life of a lived-in worker is not easy. Major adjustments such as a new set of rules to obey imposed by the employers , the change of environment , demands , separation from families, homesickness and loneliness and with these all abrupt changes are sometimes difficult to cope  with.

There are several reasons on  why either an  employers or workers terminate the 2 - year contract  . Some are of the most common grounds of contract termination are :


Typically here in Hong Kong, some flats are not spacious , around 500 square meters to 900 square meters but because couple's are both working, they tend to hire a helper to help them manage the house works and child minding . With a little space , it's quiet difficult to have a total  privacy
 ( worker having her own room ) . There are cases that workers are sleeping at the sofa in the living room . This sometimes brought an uncomfortable feelings which leads her to terminates her contract.

Insufficient Food

Sufficient and healthy food gives literally energy to any individual . With enough energy, one can performs her duties more accurately , joyfully and  speedy. Despite of the fact that it is in the contract that a lived-in worker must  provided with ample food by the employers  or if not , give her, her food allowance of 760 HK$ but unfortunately food is one of the most common problems. During holidays, it's one of the most talked topic. I met Grace ( not her real name ) and she complained about how her employer treated her. According to her,  she  only had rice every dinner, not a full cup of rice but half and 2 scoops of vegetables as her viands. At daytime, she only had one slice of bread  for breakfast and a pack of instant noodles at lunch time. Having so much work to accomplish  and with a toddler under your care, it's impossible for her not to get hungry, not to feel weak and it resulted to poor performances . Many months of poor nutrition , she suffered from frequent stomach ache and dizziness which eventually leads to ulcer  which gave her no other option but to terminate her contract.

Impolite Speech / Nagging

" You stupid " , " Stupid you "

Majority of Filipinos talk in a mellow tone. The proper choice of words and tones are important in Filipino conversations. Talk in a loud voice and you will be misinterpreted as being "bastos" ( without manners ) . This is quiet opposite to some Chinese , especially to women. They are expressive and sometimes use strong words which are a bit impolite to Filipina sense of hearing . If a newly hired worker experience this, she tends to get hurt emotionally . "You stupid" is the most common phrase they used when  they are displeased/ unsatisfied  of a worker's performance . If a worker's patience and understanding is not that wide and her tolerance is short  ,  repetition of such statements makes her decides to  terminate her contract.

Over Work / Over Fatigue

Chinese are known to be hard workers all over the  world. Time is precious to them and they are excellent in handling their finances. They knew the value of hard work versus money . A lived-in worker may find it difficult at first  when there is no certain rule for the length of working hours . Normally, it starts at 6:00 in the morning at ends at mid-night with occasional rest during meal times , nature calls and bath times. The long working hours tends some workers to terminates their contracts.


How one's behaves has literally a great impact to work and relationship to employers. Behavior determines your personality and your capability to withstand on a tough job. Your expertise and experiences may certainly  a big plus to your work but your attitudes will bring you farther . Some employers terminate their workers even they are excellent in performing their duties but because of behavior differences misunderstanding occurs . When employers have children and  grandmother ( usually, the grandmother supervise the house and the children ) , it's really not easy. The demands, pressures and endless works bring pressures and if the worker cannot behave appropriately into such situation then trouble begins. The way you responded to your employers and the way you communicate to children are important to them. Patience to children and being respectful to elderly brings merits and mind you  that most flats here , has hidden camera monitoring the activities when they are not around.


It is normal that curfew is set during rest days/ holidays to any lived-in workers although there are some employers who doesn't mind . Employers assume full responsibility to the safety of their helpers and with that regards they sometimes treat their worker as an extended family.  Setting curfews are reasonable but there are also employers who set curfews as early as 7:00 pm. Failure to comply to  the said curfew will lead to problems between the worker and employers and if it will not be resolves but  getting worst, then it will lead to termination of contract.


The greatest battle one will ever face in working abroad is homesickness . Many  Filipinas cannot withstand the pains and loneliness of being away from family especially if they are mothers and wives. Many are unable to perform their tasks or not focus on their jobs because their thoughts and worries are with their families. The poor performances brought by such emotional struggles are sometimes subject for termination when employers are unsatisfied with the workers performances.


One of the most common problems of workers here are loans or debts from lending companies  whether they loan money for their needs or they only help a friend by being a referral/ guarantor . There are instances where unpaid loans of a friend  creates problems, bank employees will then start making calls on  the  home phone number  which was  submitted during the application process and some employers dislike the hassles of constant reminders of unpaid loans  from the bank. Failure to pay every due dates will lead to phone calls too from bank employees reminding you of your obligation. This, in many  cases will lead to termination when workers are unable to fix the problems.


Working abroad is undoubtedly tough . One must be a hundred percent sure that she can  withstand the challenges and rise above  from it . Dedication, patience, hard working , focus, the ability to handle things positively during "cloudy " times are important and the capability to take cares of the children. Employers  expectations are high and worker must meet those standard. Worker must proves that she is efficient and worth to be hired. Inability to give satisfaction to employers standards are ground for termination.

Hong Kong offers big salary compare to other countries and more freedom are exercise here but unfortunate to some, who still struggles  to cope and adjust to  new environment and working condition . Are all the sacrifices worth taking?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Role and Importance of Church ( Religion ), NGO ( Non- Government Organization and Parks to the Lives of the Filipino Workers in Hongkong

Hongkong SAR ( Special Administrative Region )  is a small yet very progressive country . There are hundreds  of thousands of Filipino workers here and wherever you may go, definitely , you'll spot one or two Filipinos here . It's a good feeling though  to talk to any of your kababayan  whenever you can. A brief chit -chat  goes a long way , it's like a window opens for a new friendship especially when mobile phone numbers are exchange . It means , a new found friend who will listens when you vent, will shares an insight when things are cloudy to your senses , a source of strengths when you feel weak , a new hand to holds on to , a shoulder to cry on and someone who will wipe your tears of joy when good times come .

Church / Religion

Filipino is religious in general. It's part of majority's life, an important aspect of her well-being , a form of strength not just in spiritual manner but in all aspects .Luckily here in Hongkong, anyone can practice or exercise such right . There are various churches rendering services during weekends or even weekdays of different religion such as Roman Catholic, Iglesia Ni Cristo, Jehovah Witness, JIL ( Jesus Is Lord ) and Christians to mention the few . Filipino worker can attend any of those services religiously as long as it couldn't affect to her duty and responsibility .

In a Catholic church ( I am Roman Catholic ) , there are different groups / community ( according to one's day off ) wherein each group enjoys spiritual activities ( mass , seminars , bible study ) and an opportunity to spends time to some Filipino and build friendship . The various inter-church activities is truly a blessings to every Filipino working away from home. It serves as a bridge which connect temporarily to the Philippines (watching those Filipino theme events will somehow ease the feeling of loneliness ) .

NGO / Non- Government Organization 

Not all Filipino workers here are lucky . Unfortunately there are (were) many cases of abuse and maltreatment which caused either they terminate(d) their contract or they were terminated . When this happen , a Filipina with no money at hand , no where to go , in a huge debt ( especially a new comer ) and in total distress . Thankfully, there are many NGO's here who truly and sincerely extend their hearts and hands to rescue all those workers who are in struggles and in troubles . Shelters are open to all individual regardless of ethnicity . They also guide and assist workers who are fighting for their cases through legal battles at the court. Shelters are indeed a huge help to migrant workers who are in distress .

Note : If you have a relative or family member who plans to work abroad, it is important that they have a list of telephone numbers to be able for them to contact when emergency happens  . The following are the list of NGO's here in Hongkong.

The Bethune House  - 2721 3119 / 2522 8264

Helpers for Domestic Helpers  - 2523 4020

United Filipinos in Hongkong - 3156 2447

Mission for Migrant Workers - 2522 8264

International Services  - 2836 3598

Hongkong Christian Service ( CHEER Center ) - 3755 6811

Filipino Migrant Workers Union - 9104-1411 / 9758 5935

Bayanihan Trust Center - 2817 8928

Alliance of Progressive Labor - 2770 0411

Diocesan Pastoral Center for Filipinos ( and Other Minorities ) - 2526 4249

Asian Migrant Center - 2312 0031

Police Report Hotline -  2527 7177


Saturdays or Sundays are the usual  rest days of Filipina workers here. Each worker must have a one day rest per week . It's a day to literally rest, attend church services , virtual bonding to family and time for friends .

Parks are the common places  where most workers hang out .Them parks witness the workers story of joys, sorrows and struggles . A meeting place , a venue for a happy meals and a wide bed for those who can't resist to rest their tired body ( cardboard and  newspaper are the usual mattress ) . Sometimes parks also serves as a big stage for some church activities.

Fortunately , Hong Kong has several clean and with benches parks . Some are huge like one in the Admiralty , it's truly relaxing .

Friday, March 30, 2012

Filipina's Challenge in Hongkong

Photo Credit :

How much do you love and care your family ?

What are you willing to give up in exchange of family survival?

How brave are you  to face life's adversity alone ?

3,740 Hongkong dollars = 18 plus hours of work + one day per week day off + meager food + loneliness + abuse

Photo credit :

According to the latest statistics , there are roughly 140,000 Filipinos working in Hongkong and most are Filipina working as domestic helpers. This data dropped a bit ranking Philippines on the 2nd spot after Indonesia . There are a small percentage of Thais and Nepalese working here.

Do Filipino need to rejoice because the figure has  dropped recently?

Would that be a positive indication that Philippines economy is in a good shape ?

I don't think so as  there are variety of reasons why  numbers of Filipina domestic helpers has dropped  recently.

1. Language Barrier

Employers preferred to hire Indonesians because majority  of them are good in speaking  Cantonese ( The Indonesian employment agencies enhance their language training program  to applicants . Every applicant must at least be trained in Cantonese speaking for 7 months prior to deployment  to Hongkong). Filipinos on the other hand have limited Cantonese knowledge  ( applicants were trained for 3 days only prior to departure ) and use English as the medium of communication . Elderly employers who are unable  to speak English will more likely hire Indonesians.

2. Rights

Filipino domestic helpers are known for being outspoken  and knows how and when to exercise their rights. Hongkong justice system is quite fair to all individual regardless of ethnicity ( impressive ), social  and educational status. Most Filipinas when feel being abused ( verbally, emotionally , both and worst physically ) and rights are somewhat violated with valid proof will immediately seek assistance from the authority and non -government agencies . Filipina domestic helper also sometimes challenge positively when she knows clearly that she is right and employer is wrong  ( very rare that  employer will recognize and admit such mistake though ). Most Indonesians however, will bear the abused and wait until their contracts are terminated or they will be untimely terminated . Employment agencies too play a vital role in this situation , they indirectly inject wrong information to the workers which sometimes leads  to be no other options .

3. One - Year - Plan

Filipina workers used Hongkong as a training ground , a stepping stone to work in Europe , Canada or any advanced  country that promises more compare to Hongkong.The application process here is relatively short compare to the Philippines and a lot cheaper. Some Filipinas , have their mind set to work for one year and eventually break the contract . While working for that one year plan, they are secretly processing their application papers during their holidays.

4. Placement Fee / Processing Fee

The huge placement fee /processing fee/ agency fee makes one Filipina applicant shiver. 90,000 pesos to 95,000 pesos ( no issuance of receipts ) is now the current placement fee/processing fee excluding the medical fees, training fees and other related expenses which most likely , one worker will spend more or less 140,000 pesos for a 2-year contract. With a salary of 3,740 Hongkong dollars , it would take around 7 months to cover all the expenses. This huge expenditures drive other applicants to work in the Middle East ( though dangerous ) , Singapore and Malaysia instead of Hongkong .

The employment agencies both in the Philippines and Hongkong will share the  7 months hard-earned money of the worker.

The government is  having  that double blind fold not to see this long time problem of OFW ( Overseas Filipino Worker ) and ears are securely covered not to hear the cries of the workers .

Modern Day Heroes

Photo source :

Overseas Filipino Workers are considered to be the modern day heroes in the Philippines because of  billions of remittances they are able to contribute annually thus, making the Philippines economy at least steady. With millions of Filipino workers around the globe and mostly are women, indeed, they are the heroines  to every home. Gone are those days where women are supposed to be the care takers of every home ,excellent  cook to every  delicious food being served, shared and enjoy by the family , a hands-on mothers who are patiently staying up late and still an energetic women when  morning comes , preparing breakfast and needs of children and husband ( typical Filipina housewife duty ).

Various reasons why Filipina needs to work abroad leaving her family behind . When one  asks a single Filipina on why she decided to work abroad, she'll probably will not give you a single reason but enumerates several of them.

Married Filipina

a) The rapid growth  of househusband and seems to be now an  acceptable status  in the society tends the wife to step up , leaving  the Philippines , bears the loneliness and ready to serve other foreign families for the sake of her family to survive.

b) Probably one or two of her children are in college or university and the tuition fee and other school related expenses are too high to cope if only her husband is the one working  and receiving   meager salary , hence, a wife must helps her husband  by working abroad to finance their children's  education.

c) Sometimes, even a married Filipina is still expected to helps her parents or younger siblings who are in dire need or during emergencies ( hospital bills, sickly parent or sibling's education ) and need to work abroad .

Single Filipina

a) An elderly or health failing parent that need constant doctor's visit and with prescribed daily medications  ( In the Philippines, majority of the Filipinos have no health insurance. Doctor's consultation fee and medicines are expensive )

b) She is an ate ( older sister ) and a bread winner . It is her responsibility  ( in Filipino culture ) to send her younger siblings to school to get  higher education . This is sad sometimes because there are cases that an "ate" is being abused. Younger siblings got married after graduation or haven't finished their studies while "ate " stays single and works for decades in Hongkong to sustain their needs . Unfortunately, to make some matter worst, "ate"'s duty will never stop once her siblings got married , it will continue and eventually nieces and nephews are her responsibility too. "Ate" forgets that she has herself to mind too , she dedicates all her time, energy and life to her family , while this behavior is plausible , it also deprives the happiness of one sibling . To extend help we must help our selves first , but this never happen to many single OFW here.

c) The tight competition of a limited job in the Philippines drives many Filipina to work abroad as a domestic helper. Philippines is currently over 94 million in population and there are no adequate job to every Filipino . in one particular job vacancy, hundreds are flocking to apply. Employers then will set a high standard of qualifications  because of  many applicants .Age , height and pleasing personality ( the misconception of pleasing personality sometimes  is that , an applicant is fair in complexion and not overweight)  are a must  aside from educational background and job experiences even the job is not of a modeling type job nor beauty product endorsers just an average jobs like food attendant, saleslady, factory worker, office staff and etc.

I was shocked the first time I saw a middle-aged woman who works as a food attendant at McDonald's and other restaurants here,it will never happen in the Philippines except if you are a regular employee. Only call center jobs  in the Philippines where age and height does not matter but one must be an excellent English speaker with American, Canadian or British accent  , computer literate with an amazing  typing speed  .

There are many Filipina professionals who stepped down from their recent jobs (most are teachers) because of having low salary and  not enough to meet their daily needs , some were been laid off and left no choice but to work abroad while others were unlucky on their search for a  job in the Philippines and after numerous failed attempts gave up and work abroad. When a college or university graduate  Filipina will work abroad as a domestic helper , she'll be probably  looked down  in her hometown which caused her more pains but a heroine in her own family.

Life of a Filipina domestic helper in Hongkong  is not easy . Only a small percentage are considered lucky , most workers  receive verbal, emotional and physical abuse from their  employers , rights are violated,privacy is invaded  with meager food , long working hours , sleep in a corner or uncomfortable little space. The challenge of being away with the family is tough and thanks to the new technology, it helps a lot  because  video chatting with family back home  , it makes somehow close to them , touching their face on the computer screen will temporarily ease the loneliness .

Despite the river of tears and countless battle of emotional stability, Filipina domestic workers  are firm to stay and work in Hongkong to give their family a better life.

To give a vivid and better understanding about the life and condition of Filipina domestic helper  in Hongkong, the joys and sorrows, the  different struggles and how they are able to cope such challenges and rise from being defeated will be shared on my next blog posting .