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Domestic helpers gather during a rest day at Victoria Park in Hong Kong.

Domestic helpers gather during a rest day at Victoria Park in Hong Kong.

Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg

Hong Kong Faces Domestic Worker Shortage in Push for Covid Zero

Domestic helpers — cooks, cleaners and nannies in one — are in high demand, but a system that favors employers has some fearing they’ll be jobless if they seek higher wages.

Every Sunday, thousands of domestic workers flock to Hong Kong’s public squares, parks and whatever open spaces they can find among the city’s skyscrapers and towering apartment buildings.

Known as “‘helpers” to locals, these groups of mostly Filipina and Indonesian women are the silent core of Hong Kong’s $345 billion economy, with 400,000 providing live-in child care, cooking and cleaning to more than 10% of households before the pandemic. With the government pushing on with its Covid Zero ambitions, that number has dwindled to 350,000 and is leading residents to reckon with a worsening labor crunch.