Forced labour common among Hong Kong’s domestic helpers, study finds

TheGuardian/ 14 March 2016

Maria spends her short nights between exhausting shifts as a maid in a cupboard in her employers’ home in Hong Kong.

“The space is so small I cannot lie straight. I have no privacy and am not allowed to use my phone to contact my family,” says the single mother of two, who is in her late 20s and from a rural area in the Philippines.

Her day begins at 6am and ends at midnight.

“I work a six-day week. I am meant to get 24 hours off once a week but I am given chores in the morning and after my 7.30pm curfew. I am always hungry. I am sometimes fed leftovers, sometimes nothing. The man shouts at me and calls me ‘Idiot’ and ‘Moron’. Once, I made a mistake and he grabbed my head and shoved me,” she says.

“[Hong Kong’s rule of law], which is meant to be a shield for the workers, has been turned into a sword against them,”

“I am scared and cry every night. I can’t leave because I owe recruitment fees to my agency, and my family needs money.”

One in six migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong is in forced labour, working an average of 71 hours a week, some for more than 15 hours a day, according to research by Justice Centre Hong Kong.

“Until now, the Hong Kong government’s response to forced labour and human trafficking has largely been one of denial despite mounting international concern,” says Victoria Wisniewski Otero, who co-authored the report.

“The government considers cases of abuse as rare incidences, but we have clear evidence that labour exploitation is prevalent and, in some cases, one in six respondents in fact, bear all the markers of forced labour.”

Hong Kong has one of the highest densities of migrant domestic workers in the world – 336,600, mainly women, make up 4.4% of the city’s population and 10% of the workforce, providing cheap care for children and elderly people.

Most of these workers come from the Philippines and Indonesia. Read more…

 

 

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