Hong Kong's street cleaners
Fok Mei-sung has been a street cleaner for 12 years. But when she applied for her first sick leave she had few rights as her contracts had always been short-term. Photo: Felix Wong
The first stage developing a public interest project is identifying an unmet need.
Last month South China Morning Post published an article "Hong Kong street cleaners being deprived of basic employment benefits." The article described the miserable working conditions of some of Hong Kong's most vulnerable workers. Instead of hiring people directly and giving them benefits, the Hong Kong government subcontracts street cleaning to a series of small companies that hire workers only on a temporary basis and do not offer them benefits.
Fok has never had eight days of annual leave, because her contracts have never lasted more than two years. For over a decade, she has woken at 5am to start work, cleaning Fuk Wing Street, Fuk Wa Street and Apliu Street. And still she receives no long-term employee benefits. The mother-of-three earns HK$7,500 a month, working 81/2 hours a day, six days a week. She spends hours on the streets pushing a two-metre-long cart, cleaning and sorting rubbish. "It's hard work of course, but I've got used to it after so many years," she said, wielding a long bamboo broom, her blue uniform damp with sweat.
Based on the information in the article we can describe the social problem: Hong Kong's army of poorly paid street sweepers are being deprived of basic employment benefits by the government's policy of outsourcing its cleaning services.
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