You are here: Home » PTI Stories » National » News
Business Standard

'Forced labour' for thousands of maids in Hong Kong: report

AFP  |  Hong Kong 

Tens of thousands of foreign maids in Hong Kong are in "forced labour", according to a new report that fuels growing criticism of the city's treatment of its army of domestic workers.

The study by the Justice Centre estimates that one in six, or 50,000 of Hong Kong's more than 300,000 migrant domestic workers -- mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines -- fell into the "forced labour" category.

Its findings come after a report by the UN Committee Against Torture in December urged Hong Kong authorities to reform laws in order to protect victims of forced labour and trafficking.

The plight of the city's domestic workers was also thrown into the international spotlight by the high-profile abuse case of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, whose Hong Kong employer received a six-year jail sentence last year.

The new report defined forced labour as employment for which the worker had not been recruited freely, was not doing the job freely, or could not walk away from work.

Fourteen per cent of those in forced labour had been trafficked into the city, it said.

"Hong Kong must come clean and acknowledge these problems. It can no longer afford to sweep them under the carpet," said Piya Muqit, executive director of Justice Centre, a non-profit rights group.

"Current regulations can actually increase the vulnerability of workers to exploitation and victims face very real barriers in seeking assistance and justice," she said.

Debt incurred by unscrupulous employment agencies both in Hong Kong and the workers' home countries also played a major role in trapping workers in their jobs, the report found.

"Forced labour does not always involve physical violence, there are many tools of coercion and deception," said Victoria Wisniewski Otero, co-author of the study that interviewed more than 1,000 workers.

One Indonesian maid named as Indah told researchers she felt she had no choice but to continue working because of the debt she had incurred.

She also said she had no access to her passport, which was being held by her employer.

The study found migrant domestic labourers worked an average 70-hour week and more than a third were not given the full 24-hour rest period required under Hong Kong law.

The report called on the Hong Kong government to review legislation, improve workers' living and working conditions, and penalise agencies that overcharge.

Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Tue, March 15 2016. 14:49 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU