The help isn’t welcome poolside at an exclusive Hong Kong private members’ club.
No help allowed at a Hong Kong private club
A sign erected at the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club states “No Domestic Helpers Allowed in the Swimming Pool Area.”
A photograph of the sign has caused a stir on a Hong Kong online forum, with comments calling the policy discriminatory.
“Clearly racist … someone should report this,” wrote one commenter in the Hong Kong Moms Facebook group.
“Pretty shameful indeed. Was shocked when I saw it the first time. Helpers aren’t allowed in the pool area at all. Even sitting on the lounge chairs. It’s absurd,” wrote another.
But the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club says the sign was put in place simply because of a lack of space, saying the swimming pool is not a standard one and has limited space and capacity.
“We have provided benches at the seating area near the pool for domestic helpers, this is to avoid overcrowded [sic] at the poolside and to ensure all visitors’ safety,” it said in an email.
The club is one of the city’s most exclusive – and expensive – establishments. An individual golfing membership to the club costs in the region of $510,000 on the second-hand market.
In the minority
Hong Kong has a large domestic helper population of around 370,000 – some 5% of the population. Most originate from Indonesia and the Philippines.
They are paid about $560 per month: often more than they would earn in their home countries, but little enough that many Hong Kong people – especially expatriates – can afford to hire them. They can act as nannies to their employers’ children, caretakers for the elderly, or general cleaners and cooks.
But Hong Kong has come under fire for its poor treatment of domestic helpers.
Almost all of them are covered by a rule requiring them to live in their employer’s home, often in poor conditions, and some have complained of excessive working hours and inadequate accommodation or space to sleep. There have also been some shocking cases of physical abuse.
Cynthia Tellez, general manager of local NGO Mission For Migrant Workers, says the sign is discriminatory.
“This was an issue in the 1980s, and in the 1990s … While the management of the places where such notices were placed immediately removed the notices, the discriminatory mindset of some people remained,” Tellez says.
“Such acts are not only discriminating against domestic workers, but show little thought [for] the safety of children in the workers’ care.”
As another of those commenting in the online forum noted, the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club is not alone in imposing such restrictions on domestic helpers.
“This rule is in most clubhouses [and] in apartment buildings as well. Shameful and discriminatory,” the person writes.
Several other clubs in Hong Kong also have rules which do not allow domestic helpers on club premises, require them to wait in different rooms, or only permit them in when they are looking after the children of members.
Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said that in the cast of the Golf and Country Club, factors such as who is eligible to use the swimming pool, as well as house rules governing the use of facility, would need to be considered before it could classify the case as discriminatory.