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.
YT, a 24-year-old woman from Surabaya (2010- ), was not paid the Minimum Allowable Wage, which at the time was HK$ 3,580 (US$460).
My recruitment agency in Indonesia told me that I would earn HK$2,200 [US$280] per month. Although I knew that this was underpayment, I didn’t know how to ask for my correct wages. The staff told us that our employers will underpay us and specifically instructed us not to say anything or complain to anyone, and to just accept it.
I worked for my employers for a total of 19 months. After 15 months, I asked my employers why I had to sign a receipt every month stating that I had received the full salary of HK$3,580 [US$460] when they were only paying me HK$2,200 [US$280] with no rest days. I told them I would complain to the Labour Department. So afterwards, I received my full salary for the remaining four months. They refused to give me leave on statutory holidays but I had my Sundays off in the final two months.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International