HelperChoice interviewed about 150 domestic workers based in Hong Kong (67%), Singapore (12%), in some Gulf countries (13%) and other countries of Asia to know more about their fears and dreams.
The majority of the domestic workers are women coming from developing countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh – where they have little to no opportunity to find a well-paid job as they are often from the poorer countryside. They all have their own stories and dreams and we tried to learn more about their personal experiences. We conducted this survey because we wanted to know what made them leave their home country to go overseas, what were and are their fears but also know more about their biggest dreams.
Only 2% of the interviewed helpers mentioned they wanted to work abroad for the unique reason of enjoying working in another country, while 79.7% of the interviewees mentioned that they work overseas because they want to support their children’s or other family members’ education (like their brothers, sisters, nephews…) and a quarter of them also declared that they want to pay for their family’s medical expenses (either because the parents are already old or getting older, or because of the special needs required by other family members). When asked, the migrant domestic helpers also revealed that in 1 case out of 4 could not find a job in their home countries and working abroad became their unique option.
“80% of the FDW work overseas because they wanted to support their children’s or other family members’ education”
About half of the domestic helpers interviewed also stated that they have some dreams they want to realise thanks to their savings like building a house (56.8%), or being able to enjoy their retirement (42.6%) but also setting up their own business (43.9%). Among the different businesses they would like to set up, we can quote to open a bookstore, manage a Chinese restaurant, become a registered pharmacist, become a beautician or build an animal shelter to rescue abandoned animals.
Among their biggest dreams, about 5% of the domestic workers spontaneously say that they would like to travel over the world or settle in another country. When we asked the interviewees what their dream countries are, 40.5% replied that they want to live in Canada. Other mentioned locations are Hong Kong (14.2%), New Zealand (9.5%), Australia (8.1%), the USA (7.4%)… About a quarter of the migrant workers believe that they would earn more money in those countries, while 1 out of 7 believe that the working conditions (and especially the working hours) are better.
“40.5% of the domestic workers replied that they want to live in Canada”
Strikingly enough, we can see that domestic helpers have also other criteria to choose the country in which they prefer to live like the working conditions and/or labour regulations (29%), the geographical proximity to their home country (10%), whether they can bring their family with them (12%), and the beauty of the country (8%). Some also mentioned better job opportunities and whether they know already some people there (friends, neighbours, family members or even former employers).
Nevertheless, to achieve those goals, domestic workers need to face their fears of going abroad. Before moving to another country, interviewed migrant workers are afraid of their future employer’s manners (73.6%), of the work conditions (50.7%) or they fear that they would feel homesick (45.3%) while only a quarter are afraid of the language barrier or cultural differences. Some also mentioned the tricky helper-mother-child relationship or the fear that their employers would fire them and send them back home.
“Domestic workers find it difficult to bear the workload and work so many hours every day and they are very affected by their employers’ and their family members’ manners”
Less than 20% of the interviewees said that their fears were all found but an important majority declared that some became concrete. In their daily lives, domestic workers find it difficult to bear the workload and work so many hours every day (28.4%) and they are very affected by their employers’ and their family members’ manners (23%). The lack of rest days or the misunderstanding from their employers are complicated to bear for 1 out of 5 domestic workers. Outstandingly enough, bad accommodation is not a big issue – a fact that is quite unusual given the strict live-in rules, especially in Hong Kong.
We hope that the results of this survey will give a better understanding of domestic helpers’ aspirations but each helper has her/his own dreams and fears… As an employer, do you know the ones of your own domestic helper? Maybe you can start a discussion and learn more about them. Sometimes you will see that your dreams may not be that different.