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.
LR, a 37-year-old woman trafficked from Bandung to Hong Kong for domestic work, tells of her experience.
At the training centre in Semarang, I had to wash the clothes, take care of the children and clean the living quarters of not just the staff members, but also the recruitment agency boss.
I never had breakfast and no food allowance to compensate for it. I was made to work at two different households so I was tired and hungry all the time. The grandmother was always angry with me so it was hard to eat when she was around.
My employer wanted me to sign a document that declared I was the one breaking the contract so that she wouldn’t have to pay me the one month salary compensation. I refused and asked to go to my placement agency to find a new employer. My case is now at the Labour Department where a conciliation session is scheduled for October 2012. I am asking for compensation for unpaid wages and food allowance.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International