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.
IR, a 29-year-old woman from Ponorogo (2009-2011), was trafficked to Hong Kong and deceived by her broker.
My broker told me that I would earn the full salary of HK$3,580 [US$460] but two weeks after my arrival at the training centre in Tangerang, the recruitment agency boss told me that I would be paid HK$2,600 [US$330]. I wanted to go back home but I couldn’t because the staff told me that if I backed out now, I would have to pay the agency a penalty of IDR 12,000,000 [US$1,230].
I never left the training centre in the four months that I was there because the staff warned me that if I left, it would not be viewed positively and my application process for employment in Hong Kong would take longer.
The instructors kept telling us to study hard and were never satisfied. They called me stupid and threatened that if I didn’t work harder, they would not send me to Hong Kong.
My employer held on to my contract and passport. When I asked for them back, she refused and said that the placement agency had instructed her to keep them with her.
In September 2010, I went to the Consulate during my rest day to complain about being underpaid, but the staff yelled at me and said that I must obey my employer and do my job. They said that for migrant domestic workers like me with no previous work experience abroad, underpayment was the normal expected salary. The staff also told me that I could not get full salary [HK$3,580 or US$460] in my second contract if I didn’t finish my first one.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International