Hong Kong: court denies migrant domestic workers residency

The top court in Hong Kong has ruled that domestic workers may not apply for permanent residency. The case has been fought for two years. The outcome affects some 300,000 domestic workers, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, who may spend decades of their lives working in the territory. [BBC News/Thanks Antinous]


  1. To get that kind of treatment in the USA, you have to be a skilled professional with a university degree

    1. I don’t know about the Indonesians, but many – perhaps most – of the Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong probably do have university degrees. The Philippines has a good education system, and there’s so much competition for jobs overseas that the recruiting agencies can select better-educated young women. I can’t find statistics online to confirm this, but I’ve heard it claimed that Filipina women working overseas (including domestic and childcare workers) are more likely to have a master’s degree than not.

      On Sundays, when they have their day off, they congregate in public spaces in Central, for vast open-air picnics: tens if not hundreds of thousands of women (and a very few men) sitting around and chatting and eating. It’s an impressive sight, and gives you an idea of just how many OFW’s Hong Kong actually employs. 

    2. That is because USA has a demand for lots of low-wage illegal labor, with no benefits and no rights.  It has nothing to do with principle.

  2. Hong Kong is interesting regarding the domestic worker. It seems that every weekend many of the domestic workers from the Philippines have an outdoor community Picnic; they take up the sidewalks and skywalks near the waterfront on the Hong Kong side, where they lay blankets and cardboard down and then camp out for the afternoon, eating food and socializing, all of them women, all of them speaking Tagalog. I guess they don’t get much time off, so the day they do get they choose to spend it at this picnic.

    1. All the Indonesian ones do the same thing over in Causeway Bay and Victoria Park, it’s pretty fascinating.

  3. It’s unsettling to see legal rights determined on the basis of social class. People who work in other types of jobs can become citizens after seven years of residency. Domestic workers, after this ruling, can’t ever pursue that route to citizenship.

    1. I discovered that the last time I travelled to the USA. Officials at the US consulate had no problem with my Australian passport but got very nasty towards my then girlfriend, who was Malaysian.

      1. Obviously, someone from Malaysia would only come to the US to work illegally, overstay her visa, enter a sham marriage and squeeze out an anchor baby. Everyone knows that.

        1. I had crashed her car the previous week, which didn’t help. Also she was a medical doctor doing casual work for a locum service, so she couldn’t prove any ties to Australia, though her ten year investment in a medical degree would be useless in the US.

          And she only went to the US because I wanted to visit friends in NYC, otherwise we would have just gone to Europe. For what it is worth I am sure Australian immigration are just as hard on some nationalities.

          1. They make you jump through hoops here as well – and that was to secure a visa for someone from Japan. I think the policy is that if you aren’t a Brit or an American (white, of course) then you require extreme suspicion.

  4. Hong Kong has the same nativist tendencies as just about anywhere, extra amplified by the powerful, culturally and linguistically different, and growing presence of the mainland just across the border. Whether you speak Cantonese or Mandarin or English will give you radically different treatment from shop clerks, for example. The Philippino and Indonesian domestic workers seem to be a sad casualty of this dynamic, particularly since they’re already such a big part of the culture – there are hundreds of thousands of them, with whole neighborhoods dedicated to serving them on their day off.

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