Saturday, November 11, 2023

Why Some HK Domestic Helpers Hate The Typhoon Season

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Domestic workers in Hong Kong and all over the world have plenty of tasks on hand to accomplish.

From the moment they wake up in the morning to heading to bed at night, they have certain things to finish at a particular time.

Prepare the family breakfast. Wake the children up and prepare them for school. Both the nanny and the child need to go down to the basement to catch the school bus or take public transport.

She then heads back up to do the laundry or do a vacuum cleaning as employers. Afterward, she walks the dog, cleans the car, heads to the market for groceries, and cooks a meal for the stay-in elderly family member. After washing the dishes, she takes a quick pause before heading to school to pick up her ward. Such a procedure is done in a clockwork fashion, so a little disruption can mess up her routine.

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Now, here comes Hong Kong’s typhoon warning which, by law, sets precedence on how Hong Kong will operate. For example, if typhoon warning signal number 3 or red rainstorm warning is issued by 10:30 am, afternoon kindergarten classes are suspended for the day. Conversely, when typhoon warning signal no. 8 or above is issued employers should not require their employees to report for work.

A couple waits for the rain to stop in the Central district of Hong Kong during a thunderstorm caused by Typhoon Kalmaegi on September 16, 2014. Hong Kong was shuttered on September 16 as a powerful typhoon swept past the city, bringing strong winds and rain that caused flight disruptions and forced the closure of the stock market and container ports. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS

Unsurprisingly, the Hong Kong public — except those who travel — generally cheer such news of an impending storm warning at the beginning of the day because it means no need to go to school or work and plenty of time to hang out at home or watch a movie.

But to domestic helpers, it’s a nightmare of sorts as it disrupts the rhythm of their work.

1. With children at home, attention is towards them instead of the typical household chore. Instead of fixing the kitchen, they attend to the child. Sometimes it’s a tutorial or classroom assignment or cooking their meals.

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2. With parents at home, the helpers cannot fully perform their tasks like cleaning the living room or bedroom because folks are staying there.

So while Hong Kong’s workers and students return to stay home during a typhoon warning, free from additional tasks in the office or assignments in school, domestic workers continue to work at an even more intense pace as they need to deal with things to do while employers and children stay indoors.

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