On Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong
Elysia Li 18
What is Memento?
Cal Kromelow 17
Religion to the Third Power
Elaine Chen 17
Tina Guo 19
How Genuine Is Sorry?
Alan Wong 17
From the Editors
Elaine Chen 17, Chris Park 18
Isabel Tyree 17
Wan Lin Qin 17
Why We Panick to Think We Could Be Fake
Daniel Kim 18
Time Travel Ruins Everything
Chris Park 18
The Prison Effect
Isabel Conti 18
The Greed That Took over Greece
Michelle Na 18
From the E
ditorsI originally became interested in philosophy during Prep hu-manities. When I first heard of the Philosophy Clubs plan to discuss various topics that delve in contemporary and classical ideas, I decided to assist this project. I believe that the club has the potential to develop into a salon (a party for artists and scholars to gather and discuss ideas); as a matter of fact, the clubs alternate name is The Blue Salon.
The philosophers of Ancient Greece were able to share their (extensively long) ideas with others because they had a lot of free time. Sadly, Hotchkiss students do not share the same lei-sure. As such, gaining interest in philosophical meetings was difficult for the founding members, as students do not have the time to research and discuss about a specific branch of philosophy. As an alternative solution, the Blue Salon wanted to take advantage of the fact that any topic has the potential for logical analysis and chose to publish our own magazine, Brainstorm. Thus, Brainstorm is the opportunity for anyone who wants to provide an opinion about their personal interests and preserve those ideas.
This first issue of Brainstorm was an adventure for all of our members, and I can recall how many surprises I had during this process. I was originally a writer and an editor for articles. Due to my tendency to analyze anything that interests me, I thought the position of an editor was good enough for me. So, when Elaine offered me the job of editor in chief, I had a lot to learn throughout the process. While I commented and managed ar-ticles, I watched my co-editor in chief contact designers and potential members for the magazine. When all is said and done, Brainstorm is a learning experience. You learn to think about ideas, to write, and how to improve on your product day by day.
Chris Park 18Co-editor in Chief
The crisp winter wind, the moist scent of rain, the ephemeral youth of the morning star, and the rolling clouds spreading like ink feathering under a spilt drop of tea every observation spawns wonder. Its the small things in life that continuously provoke human sentiment, that continuously provoke thought. And just like that, philosophy becomes timeless.
Our journey began with a congregation of different people bearing their own ideas. Shortly after, our club exuded with ideas to the extent where we feared that we would lose them forever. To satisfy the building din of ideas, our club settled on the idea of compiling a magazine to shelter these fleet-ing thoughts; its no exaggeration to say that Brainstorm is the offspring of our imagination. Personally, flipping through the pages of this magazine, I can feel my mind slowly plunging into the ocean of inspiration that is philosophy, striking the fine balance between my world and the world.
Human existence lives in two dimensions: imagination and re-ality. But the rift where these two dimensions overlap crude-ly packages into one single term - philosophy. Our magazine Brainstorm attempts to capture this term in ways more than the classroom definition. Enlightenment beings with the faculty of wonder: theres still a whole lot out there to admire, but for now enjoy this issue!
Special thanks to:Ms. Wynn, for sparking passion in what we do
Mr. Reed, for supporting me and the magazines process
Sumin Goh 18, for making the magazine possible
Elaine Chen 17Co-editor in Chief
A few weeks ago, I explained the domestic helper system to a friend of mine. Surprisingly, she remarked that the system sounded similar to indentured servitude. She ex-plained that, not unlike indentured servitude, domestic help-ers live with their employers and perform domestic duties. My first reaction upon hearing this was to vehemently deny her claim. Indentured servitude was abolished in the Unit-ed States during the 19th century due to its infringement of natural rights. How could a system so prevalent in modern society resemble indentured servitude? After giving the question more thought, I decided that Hong Kongs domestic helper system is different from indentured servitude for a few reasons. Firstly, domestic helpers are not considered personal property; domestic helpers cannot be sold or inherited as indentured servants were. Secondly, do-mestic helpers are not obligated to work for a particular em-ployer, for they are permitted to terminate their employment contracts. Thirdly, domestic helpers are paid monthly wages in addition to being provided with food, or a food allowance and living accommodations. The salient difference between indentured servitude and the domestic helper system is that domestic helpers are not in compulsory service. However, similarly to indentured servants, domestic helpers rights are often not protected. As a result, domestic helpers work under conditions similar to bonded labourers and are often discriminated against.
Domestic helpers often become bonded labourers due to debt. It has been noted that many domestic help-ers are in debt when they arrive in Hong Kong to work.
This is partially credited to corruption among domestic helper agencies. Many domestic helpers rely on agencies for job opportunities in Hong Kong. Although the law only per-mits agencies to charge domestic helpers HK$401, approxi-mately 10% of the minimum domestic helper monthly sala-ry, domestic helpers have spoken of an illegal agency fee that is twice as much as their annual salary. These agencies often require domestic helpers to pay them upfront in cash, for the purpose of not leaving any evidence of the illegal trans-actions. Many domestic helpers take out loans to pay their agencies and may be forced to become bonded labourers in order to pay off debts.
Domestic helpers are often subjected to discrimi-nation as indentured servants were. They are treated worse than other foreign workers. They are denied the right to ap-ply for permanent residency in Hong Kong, despite fulfilling the prerequisite of residing in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years. Domestic helpers may not live in Hong Kong without an employment visa and are not eligible for social benefits. There is also evidence that some domestic helpers have been abused by their employers (Erwiana Sulistyaningsihs case, in which she was physically abused by her employer for six months, being the most well-known).
Many people have argued that domestic helpers are not compensated fairly. They argue that the Statutory Minimum Wage should apply to domestic helpers, but the Statutory Minimum Wage cannot apply to domestic helpers because
On Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong
As somebody who has lived in both Hong Kong and America, the first dif-ference that comes to mind is the domestic helper system in Hong Kong.
of their unusual terms of employment. The Minimum Wage Ordinance states that if an employee while being on-call orstandby is in attendance at a place of employment in accor-dance with the contract of employment or with the agree-ment or at the direction of the employer, such on-call or standby time is hours worked for computing minimum wage. Since domestic helpers live with their employers, their employers would be charged for 24 hours of work every day. This does not mean that domestic helpers should receive less compensation for their work. Domestic helpers work for 6 days per week from before breakfast until after dinner, which is around 12 hours a day. In a month with 30 days, they will have had 26 working days. With the same hour-ly working wage as the Statutory Minimum Wage provides, they should get HK$32.5*12*26 = HK$10,140 per month. Domestic helpers currently receive a monthly minimum sal-ary of HK$4,110, which they are not taxed on by the Hong Kong government. It might seem like domestic helpers re-ceive significantly less than they should. However, domestic helpers are also provided with a food allowance of HK$964 (if food is not provided), and living accommodations. Housing in Hong Kong is extremely expensive. According
to numbeo.com, the average rent for an apartment with one bedroom outside of the city centre is HK$12,258.62.Adding their current salary to the cost of providing food and housing, HK$4,110 + HK$964(food allowance, which should be the same as what providing food costs) + HK$12,258.62 = HK$17,332.62. The price of food and housing make up for their lower minimum salary.
According to the law in Hong Kong, domestic helpers should not work under conditions similar to that of indentured ser-vants. Domestic helpers are not indentured servants because they are technically allowed to terminate their employment contracts and they receive salaries. However, since laws that protect the rights of domestic helpers have not been enforced, the similarities between indentured servants and domestic helpers include discrimination and abuse in some cases. It is the responsibility of the Hong Kong government to enforce its laws more closely to ensure that Hong Kong is a safe working environment for everyone.
Elysia Li 18