There are an estimated 10,000 people living in modern slavery in Hong Kong (GSI 2018). Approximately 370,000 foreign domestic workers, primarily from Indonesia and the Philippines, work in Hong Kong; some become victims of forced labour in the private homes in which they are employed. An NGO report released in 2016 estimated as many as one in six foreign domestic workers is a victim of labour exploitation. Employment agencies often charge job placement fees in excess of legal limits, and sometimes withhold identity documents, which may lead to situations of debt bondage of workers in Hong Kong. The accumulated debts sometimes amount to a significant portion of the worker’s first year salary. Some employers or employment agencies illegally withhold passports, employment contracts, or other possessions until the debt is paid. Some workers are required to work up to 17 hours per day, experience verbal, sexual or physical abuse in the home, and/or are not granted a legally required weekly day off.
RE, a 36-year-old woman from Lampung (2011- ), was physically abused by her employer on multiple occasions whenever she was “unhappy about my work”.
I ran away from my employer, I was worried about paying back the recruitment fee because I didn’t finish the contract, which meant I would have to pay the fee again. I only found out now that under Hong Kong law, agencies can only charge in fees 10 per cent of our first month salary.
When a contract is terminated before paying off the fees, Indonesian domestic workers must pay an additional seven months’ recruitment fee again for our new job. So even if it’s terminated after six months, we are still obligated to pay the fees from the start all over again.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International