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Agencies should not market tutoring skills

 HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : While many employment agencies openly advertise that the academic qualifications of foreign domestic workers can help them to act as tutors to the children in their care, migrant rights workers restated that it is high time the Hong Kong government make it clear that tutoring is not part of domestic duties as stipulated in the standard employment contract.

Eman Villanueva, from the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said that tutoring is definitely not part of domestic duties as defined by the 189th convention of the International Labour Organisation, or the duties listed in the Hong Kong employment contract.

“This can be considered as part of the exploitation of foreign domestic workers, as we are paid less and are required to do more and thus work longer hours,” he said.

He lamented that the skills and professional services of foreign domestic workers are most likely not compensated. “The more skills and professional services expected from overseas workers, the more exploitative and slave-like the treatment will become,” he said.

He believes requiring foreign domestic workers to tutor their wards with their homework will put both local tutors and foreign domestic workers at a disadvantage, as employers try to save money by not hiring local tutors.

Villanueva said the Immigration Department and the Labour Department should look into the issue and make it clear to the public that overseas workers should not be ordered to do tutoring.

He believes that due to the lack of action on behalf of the government, the issue is left to be solved between the foreign domestic workers and the employers themselves. And foreign domestic workers are obviously at a disadvantage, as they dare not simply refuse their employers’ request.

“We are hostage to this situation—damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you do, you will be exploited. If you refuse, you get fired,” he noted.

He restated that it is the job of the Hong Kong government to make it clear that these are not part of domestic duties and to punish agencies that are advertising teaching ability as an employment advantage or encouraging employers to hire foreign domestic workers to tutor their children.

An earlier survey done by the Hong Kong Memory Study Association, in cooperation with the Hong Kong Psychological Society, shows a heavy reliance on foreign domestic workers to do tutoring work in Hong Kong families.

The findings, released in April, indicated that 60 per cent of the foreign domestic workers interviewed were required to tutor their wards with their homework. 

Among them, 36 per cent said they found such duties really difficult, while 66 per cent said the hardest thing is dealing with the behavioural problems of their wards while doing their homework.

Fifty-three per cent of the foreign domestic workers said they had even been scolded or verbally-abused by their employers for teaching their employers’ children in a wrong way.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Psychological Society was quoted by the Sky Post on April 20 as saying that scolding foreign domestic workers before children shows a lack of respect for the workers and may encourage children to treat the workers in the same way, thus making it more difficult for foreign domestic workers to take care of their wards.

The survey also revealed that some wards in primary school had even ordered foreign domestic workers to do the homework for them and told them not to tell their parents.

A total of 730 workers were interviewed by the two groups in January and February this year in the common gathering places for foreign domestic workers in Central and Causeway Bay.

‘The more skills and professional services expected from overseas workers, the
more exploitative
and slave-like the treatment will
become’