Accepted Paper:

Valuing life and migrant labour in Hong Kong  


Catherine Bryan (Dalhousie University)
Pauline Gardiner Barber (Dalhousie)

Paper short abstract:

Working from labour conflict in 2016, this paper revisits the fictive values assigned to the lives and labour of domestic service workers under the current modalities of capitalism in Hong Kong; and within the grand fiction of Philippine migration as development.

Paper long abstract:

In 2016, yet another conflict erupted in Hong Kong over the contractual regulations governing employment conditions for the city's 330,000 migrant domestic service workers; in this instance, with regards to unsafe labour practice of exterior window cleaning in high-rise apartments. Protagonists in the ensuing debate included the Philippines, home to over half the workers, migrants' rights advocates, and an association representing employers. Commencing with an examination of the workers' labour process, this paper teases out what is at stake for the various participants in this instance where social reproductive labour is devalued despite its fundamental importance to the modalities of capitalism in Hong Kong, and elsewhere in the region. While much has been written about the exploitative conditions confronting migrant domestic service workers, this paper revisits scenarios for Philippine migrant workers in light of current political and economic instabilities rendering ever more obvious the grand fiction of migration as development.

Panel WIM-GF02
Fictions of capital: movements and modalities