Every Sunday in Hong Kong the elevated walkways and squares are packed--with people sitting down.
No, it is not a strike; this is the freest land of capitalism around.
Nor are the Jonas Brothers or Christina Aguilera giving free concerts.
No, this is generally the one day that domestic workers get off in Hong Kong.
Technically they are called FDHs, Foreign Domestic Helpers.
For less than 450 USD a month I can have a live-in domestic helper sleep and work in my home.
If I provide a roll up mattress (she would provide pillow, sheets, and a blanket) for the kitchen (thoughtfully designed to be as wide as camping mattress for one person) and food for her (which she cooks, as well as the nicer meals she would prepare for me and any guests I have) then I am considered to have done her a good turn, by providing a good job, in Hong Kong at least.
She would work all week for me, except Sunday. Domestic workers get one day off, normally Sunday.
Don't misunderstand me. The provision of a place to sleep is fantastically valuable in Hong Kong, and is not to be underestimated.
Land is insanely expensive here in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is far more expensive than Tokyo (I have lived there) or New York (I want to live there, and I have seen the Bloomberg financial data on rent rates globally).
Many people live in significantly reduced circumstances here, in Hong Kong. The provisioning of shelter and food means that 450 USD (almost) can go straight to paying for the flight to come here, the debt to the placement agency, and, eventually, to the "let me earn a better life for myself and my family" fund.
Also, many people have the wherewithal to, and some do, provide their staff with better accomodation, and nice bonuses. But that is not required, and they are not in the majority.
The only perk that all domestic helpers can count on is one day off a week to socialize with each other.
Typically, domestic helpers congregate together in various public spaces around Hong Kong.
Some spots, such as the elevated walkways, or the ground floor atrium of HSBC's flagship banking centre, resemble swallows nests if you stand, close your eyes, and listen.
The number one country in terms of sending domestic helpers to Hong Kong is the Republic of the Philippines, followed by Indonesia, and then Thailand. There are apparently about 140,000 Filipino domestic helpers legally in Hong Kong, and the same number, combined, of Indonesian and Thai domestic helpers.
The Philippines has 90 million people, making them the 46th most populous country in the world. They also have 9 million citizens living abroad, about 11% of their domestic population.
Anecdotally, Filipinos who I have talked to tell me that they generally support 7 people in the Philippines.
Remittances from overseas (usually domestic) workers is about 10% of the total GDP of the Philippines. Approximately 16 Billion USD was sent back to the families in the Philippines in 2008; that is the aggregate sum contributed by people maknig 450 USD per month. Almost 1 of every 10 dollars earned in the Philippines was actually earned by a Filipino working abroad, likely a domestic helper.
If the anecdotal stories are correct, and domestic helpers support 7 people each in the Philippines, then 11% of the population would make 10% of the GDP and support 77% of the people in the Philippines. Again, if that is true, I would definitely want to be born into the more lucrative 12% of the population that controls 90% of the GDP...
Filipinos usually have a husband and children in the Philippines, even though they only get home to see them once per year. In the Republic of the Philippines, the average life expectancy is 70 years, but the median age is just over 22 years; this is a young country.
So, every Sunday, the young domestic helpers break free of their cages, flutter their wings, and sing their songs with one another.
And, though I do not speak Tagalog, the sound of their talking is usually joyful, not mournful. These are people counting their blessings, not enumerating their sorrows, though they can do that too.
Which should provide a lesson to us all. Especially those of us with computers and desks and beds and private space... and the wherewithal to live with the ones we love.
More reasons to enjoy all that you have been blessed with, no matter how difficult some days may seem.
As usual, with Junosmom, I am cohosting My Town Monday (MTM) until Travis Erwin completes his phoenix trick and takes this task back.
To contribute to the rebuilding of Travis' home, razed by flames, visit here.
But, now, and here, are glimpses of other people's towns around the world this Monday...
Cloudia guides us through the nitty gritty of Kalihi, a Hawaii that you might not find on your own, but is certainly the type of place I would want to explore if I lived there.
Clair Dickson and Bo Fexler, PI are getting out the big guns in the well-protected towns (or very dangerous towns) of Livingston County, Michigan
Mary introduces us to a tiny arboreal town the cedar waxwings forgot, but that starlings and robins found
Barrie Summy lubriciously facilitates our MTM journey to a technological innovation hailing from San Diego
A big hello and welcome to new MTMer Robin who takes us to the Watts Bar Belle in Kingston, Tennessee
A big hello a chroesawa to new MTMer the Archavist in Pontyridd, Wales who takes us into the birthplace of the modern, hard-boiled literary genre community and interviews Max Allan Collins... a literary MTM
OK, technically not an MTM post, but it gets me a second entry in a book contest for Eileen Cook's new book. Check out the first Eileen Cook/Barrie interview (click here) to get a look inside the compost town that is BS' brain (I really could not resist that...)
In the exact same vein as the prior post, again, technically not an MTM post, but this gets me a second entry in a book contest for Barrie Summy's new book. Check out the second Eileen Cook/Barrie interview (click here) to get a look inside another writer's brain (her town, today and everyday)
If your MTM post is not here, drop me a note and I will include you.