After five deaths this year, Hong Kong’s Filipino domestic helpers will no longer have to clean windows

Not her job.
Not her job.
Image: Reuters/Aaron Tam
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Domestic helpers working in Hong Kong will no longer be allowed to clean windows as part of their contractual duties.

The agreement comes at the request of the Philippines consulate in Hong Kong, and will be enforced in contracts beginning Nov. 14 (link in Chinese). The date, however, was pushed back from Oct. 15 after a backlash from some employers’ groups in Hong Kong. A representative of the Support Group for Hong Kong Employers with Foreign Domestic Helpers said it was not consulted ahead of the ban. A Hong Kong official said (link in Chinese) both sides still needed to clarify whether the ban would extend to individual houses and balconies.

In a city full of towering apartment blocks, window-cleaning can be a fatal chore. A 35-year-old Filipina helper fell to her death in August this year from the 49th floor of a building.

Domestic helpers protested last month against window cleaning after a series of deaths this year in Hong Kong. Advocacy groups for domestic helpers had also urged the Filipino government to provide better working conditions for helpers in Hong Kong, Feliza Benitez, chairperson of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union in Hong Kong, told Quartz.

Current contracts signed between domestic helpers and employers do not specify (pdf, p.3) what duties helpers must perform beyond just “household chores,” as well as taking care of children and the elderly, and cooking.

After the Philippines, Indonesia sends the most domestic helpers to Hong Kong. The South China Morning Post reported that Indonesian consular authorities in Hong Kong are mulling a similar move against cleaning windows.

Tom Tsui contributed reporting.