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.
GM, a 45-year-old woman from Banyuwangi, details her daily routine as a migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong.
Everyday at 4am, along with other trainees, I cleaned the training centre. Then after classes ended at 5pm, we worked for the staff and agency owner – making them coffee, cooking, cleaning and doing their laundry. We also had to do small services like massage the agency owner.
When I arrived in Hong Kong, the placement agency confiscated my passport, KTKLN and employment contract. The agency refused to return these documents to me. I was only allowed to keep my Hong Kong ID card.
After 18 months, I finally ran away to a shelter that my friends told me about because I was tired of being verbally abused by my employers, which happened every day. Whatever I did, it was always wrong – they criticised how I cooked, called me “crazy” or “mental”, and once, the son used the term for the male sexual organ at me. If one family member got angry, then all of them joined in. I couldn’t take it anymore because they constantly made me nervous and tense.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International