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.
WS, a 25-year-old woman from Ponorogo, Indonesia was trafficked to Hong Kong for domestic work.
At the training centre in Malang, we had half a glass of bean porridge for breakfast and a small bowl of rice and vegetables for lunch and dinner. I had to supplement the meals by buying food with my own money, which came to about IDR 15,000-20,000 [US$1.50-2.00] per day.
I couldn’t complain to the placement agency in Hong Kong because I was not allowed to go outside or make phone calls.
After the deduction period, I was paid HK$2,000 [US$260], but I had to sign a monthly receipt of HK$3,580 [US$460]. When I asked my employer why I had to sign it when I didn’t receive the full salary, he became furious and banged his fists on the kitchen cupboard asking me why I would question him. I got so scared that I never asked again.
I had no rest day or statutory holidays. If I left the household, I had to be accompanied by the grandmother or grandfather. My employers forbade me from talking to other Indonesian domestic workers – I wasn’t even allowed to smile at them. Once I was walking with my employers to the park when they saw me smiling at other Indonesians. The husband got angry and yelled, “Why are you smiling? You look like a lunatic!
Narrative provided by Amnesty International