You might say that Poland is a poor country, so nobody can afford it, but the fact is Polish people rarely ever hire a live-in domestic helper/nanny. There are many reasons, but mostly because Polish people can handle domestic chores by themselves and usually have support from their family. So your parents would take turns in taking care of your children or picking them up from school. Maternity leave is quite generous and people use this time to get used to all new duties. Usually in Poland, both parents work, but they would still not excuse themselves from everyday chores. The only services people would use is babysitter, a person who they choose to come and take care of their children, when they need to attend some events, stay at work longer or in some emergencies. A babysitter comes for a few hours, sometimes helps with cooking dinner, sometimes stays overnight if parents are not at home, but never ever lives with the family.
Au-pair became popular across Europe, as a chance to let children learn foreign language from live-in nanny, but this usually is not a situation that you would continue for a long time.
Live-in domestic helpers in Hong Kong is a phenomena which I have not encountered before and to be honest there are just too many reasons not to support it. The only good thing is work opportunity for people from poorer countries.
Below, reasons why I don’t like the whole idea in random order:
1 – Trust.
When you have children and you really need help with them, you want someone trustworthy to take care of your children. Domestic helpers in Hong Kong are organised by agencies and so you might not even meet them in person before they arrive in Hong Kong. I don’t know exact procedures of recruitment, so if you know something, let me know!
So even if the domestic helper is the most trustworthy person in the planet, you will not know about it. That’s why, when you hire them and they stay at home watching your kids, you feel a bit worried, because you don’t even know the person. It’s very common to buy cameras to be able to observe your domestic helper taking care of children, when you’re out. They keep an eye on your children and you keep an eye on them.
2 – Living conditions.
Hong Kong apartments are small. Really small. I will say it over and over, as it’s really, really small. And then you have kids, at least one. And then the domestic helper is a live-in. Where do you squeeze her? Really, anywhere. Apparently, they usually share room with children, but they are sometimes squeezed in some other places around the house an to be honest, I don’t think any of them have enough personal space.
3 – Treatment.
Domestic helpers are not treated well enough, in my opinion. Many of them are really nice people, very gentle and polite. Hong Kong people overuse them and they in result end up not knowing how to do anything. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of children is just beyond them. It’s very weird for me to see both parents taking their child out on a weekend, but dragging the nanny with them, because they simply can’t handle their own child!
I know a person who is a great example how treatment of domestic helpers is the worst possible. There’s a huge typhoon coming to Hong Kong, but first it was estimated that it would hit straight into Philippines. Very scary. When we were chatting about it, he suddenly said that if something happens to his helper’s family in Philippines, he will have more work at home to do, because the helper will be sad or crying. He said it in a very serious tone – he will have to take care of the children and take care of cleaning for few days! Backstory here: he is working in quite a flexible job, and because of some sickness he was actually spending every second day at home, not in the office. But he can’t imagine to take care of his mess even for one day, even if the nanny’s family is in danger.
4 – Days off.
Do you know this feeling when you come back home after work on Friday and sit on a sofa and feel so free? When you think about not having to wake up with alarm on the next day, it’s the best feeling ever.
Live-in domestic helpers don’t get to feel it, because they work and live in the same place. They get only one day off, typically Sunday, when you can see all domestic helpers (mainly from Indonesia and Philippines) sit on carton boxes on streets, in parks and pretty much everywhere, having little gatherings and parties with their friends. They bring food, play games, sing and laugh and finally they can take a rest from their bosses. I do not like to see that, because I feel really bad. They don’t really have any choice, they can only stay outdoors, as domestic helpers in Hong Kong are not allowed to live in their own houses.
When I asked the same person if his domestic helper would have to fly home in case of some family emergencies, he just simply replied that they would lose money if they skip work, as they don’t get paid leave and they wouldn’t be allowed to go anyway.
5 – Respect.
I feel like Hong Kong residents hiring domestic helpers tend to look down on them. I heard someone say it out loud that Indonesian domestic helpers are dirtier than Filipinos. How can you even say things like this?
When parents go to bigger family gathering and they take their domestic helper with them, they don’t even care if she eats something as well – her responsibility is to run after the kid and take care of it the whole night. Sometimes there is even no space for her at the table!
Institution of Nanny in Europe is pretty important and everyone respects them a lot. They always know how to solve problems and can help to tame the wildest kid-monster. I wish people in Hong Kong start appreciating their domestic helpers more, because from my personal experience, it’s them who are most likely to return a random smile on a metro or move a bit to let you have more comfortable position in crowded metro.