March 16, 2007

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Helping the help

Mike Poole talks about free trade and the Filipino maid over at Asia Sentinel. The article explores why helpers protested in Hong Kong last month, and notes:

This situation of chronic dependency is what Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen would call an “unfreedom”. He argues that freedom of exchange and of opportunity must be central to economic development. A country can build sustainable wealth, measured over the long run and not just a few decades, only when freedoms such as employment, adequate healthcare and education are in place to develop human resources.

That’s clearly not the case in the Philippines, but this notion of economic freedom is very close to the Pilipino word kalayaan, which implies social cooperation for liberty and its rewards. The problem in Hong Kong last month was that for one group of Filipinos, the home government tried to separate economic freedom from development policy, their kalayaan from their employment contracts.

Poole also notes the decline in real wages of helpers in Hong Kong plus the hit they have taken due to the peso's strength against the Hong Kong dollar (which is effectively the US dollar). What it doesn't touch on is the potential impact of a minimum wage law in Hong Kong for domestic helpers.

posted by Simon on 03.16.07 at 01:34 PM in the Hong Kong people category.


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