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Looking for throwaway labour

As the government in Hong Kong mulls the dilemma of caring for its aging population, bureaucrats are once again looking off shore to find labour to fill the gaps and talking the need for a further 600,000 of what it puts the demeaning tag—domestic helpers.
 
But what it is not talking about is how to attract that number to come here, particularly as it is now looking for skilled labour prepared to undergo training in the care of people in their sunset years and appears to want to opt for its long held concept of throwaway labour rather than career building.
 
This is not about hanging onto the common myth that there is a magnanimity in giving foreign workers a job, but it is about creating an international relationship of interdependency.
 
While the migrant worker deal in Hong Kong is not the worst in the world, it is not the best either and contains a lot of simply unattractive terms for recruiting large numbers of responsible people.
 
Persistence in the helper tag may be tolerable if it was only intended to be descriptive, but it is not, it also has legal implications. By not being classified as workers they labour without a workplace and, while conditions of stay and work are set, they are not able to be inspected or monitored effectively.
 
In addition, if an employer dies, the worker’s contract is terminated as of that moment, leaving them with 14 days to get out of town, which would make work among an age group with short life expectancy hazardous and not conducive to either career building or personal security.
 
Looking after people in the final years of their lives is an honourable task, as much as caring for children in their formative years or keeping a good house for a family to interact in. Employers by necessity must place a lot of trust in a person who works in their home and the persistent mistrust shown by government, which is manifest in its determination to keep a tight rein on them, is not bound to attract.
 
Hong Kong is looking to create a new-styled industry in a traditional occupation and, if it wants to attract good people, both work and life style are important. The recent summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pushed an agenda on migrant workers calling for an end to the recruitment rackets that indenture them in debt, as well as the right to a fair salary, measured against local wages in the place of employment, visitation rights for family and right to join a union.
 
While Hong Kong does not ban any of these, other policies do anything but encourage them.
Ironically the agenda was pushed by The Philippines, one of the worst offenders, especially with recruitment agencies.
 
The current model of one worker tied to one employer seems obsolete. It makes no provision for the person being cared for during holidays, days off or at times of illness and it would seem that a system of employment rather than debt indenture with teams servicing a circle of clients would attribute life style and professionalism to the worker and ensure that the client’s needs are cared for according to demand.
 
The whole concept needs to be rethought from the ground up. JiM