Celine Liao

From Canton Maids to Filipino Domestic Helpers: Migrant Labor Transition in Hong Kong Domestic Service Market

In the years after World War II, Hong Kong functioned as an increasingly crucial locale for movement of goods and labor. A large group of working-class women from Canton Province of China who used to work in lucrative silk mills and form a intimate community of unmarried women, lost their jobs among the waves of war and economic crisis, traveled across borders to work in domestic service, and generated a new social status group as mahjeh serving rich families. Their participation had become a crucial part for constituting a Hong Kong’s lifestyle and identity, until they gradually disappeared among the massive influx of Filipino domestic helpers (FDHs).
This project aims to comprehend the vicissitudes of Hong Kong’s domestic service industry in the prelusion of democratization and neoliberalism, and therefore understand how the intersecting and shifting power relations surrounding gender, race and class in Hong Kong domestic service industry draw women from Canton and the Philippines to become reproductive labor workers. This project will serve as an effort to further understand how the international division of labor in a shifting neoliberal context impacted individuals’ actions, movement and the structure of their embedded institutions.