In highlighting the contribution of Hong Kong’s foreign domestic workers to the local economy, a popular HK columnist explained how the generosity of employers can encourage maids to provide a higher level of service.

The Apple Daily columnist, who goes by the pen name “Jor Ding-san”, on June 12 recounted how his friend, a semi-retired journalist and public relations consultant, encountered her former domestic helper and a young man, whom she did not recognize, in front of her apartment in Sha Tin in the New Territories.

The former helper, Karen, 53, was, in fact, accompanied by her son. They, together with Karen’s husband, three other children and a grandson, had traveled from the Philippines to Hong Kong for sight-seeing.

Karen explained that she wanted to visit with her former employer to thank her for treating her as a family member during her employment.

Jor said his journalist friend had earned the gratitude of Karen, and other helpers over the years, by giving them generous “red packets”, gifts of cash that are traditionally given at festivals and special occasions. He said she also shared expensive food with them and sponsored visits to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Jor further recalled how he once discovered his Filipino maid had taken some mooncakes without asking, but instead of being angry with her, he gave her some more to share with her friends. His neighbor criticized him for being “too generous” with the maids, but he stressed that this was the wrong perspective.

He said employers who are generous with their domestic workers will encourage better work performance from them and build more productive relationships in the long run.