Foreign Domestic Workers in Hong Kong

FDWs in HK face more widespread and intensified problems with recruitment and moneylending agencies

For many foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Hong Kong, recruitment agencies are not paths to employment stability but to constant insecurity and severe debt bondage. Starting from the country of origin and continuing while in Hong Kong, FDWs have to contend with overcharging, illegal collection of fees, repayment of fraudulent loans and, oftentimes, harassments and threats from agency collectors.

These problems are very much present among Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers who comprise the overwhelming majority of FDWs in Hong Kong. The following are partial data from FDWs who approached the Mission between January to June this year:

  • 72% of clients have complaints against recruitment and/or moneylending agencies
  • 40% of the complainants have already lost their jobs
  • The average length of employment of those with terminated contracts is 6 months
  • 40% of the complainants were made to pay more than HK$20,000
  • 86% of the complainants were made to pay more than HK$10,000

In Hong Kong, even though a policy that set the ceiling (10% of the first month’s salary) for the amount agencies can collect is in place, weaknesses and loopholes in its implementation has kept unscrupulous recruiters, moneylenders and employers free from prosecution and the problems of migrants with them to persist.

These weaknesses and loopholes include the premium that the Employment Agency Administration (EAA) puts on evidences like receipts before they accept a complaint of overcharging whereas they have already been informed of the practice of non-issuance of receipts by erring recruiters and moneylenders; the six-month statutory barrier that make lots of complaints inadmissible; and, their very low record of conviction of overcharging agencies that discourages victims who otherwise may want to file a case.

Harassments of collecting agents also happen in Hong Kong. While these are reported, there’s a tendency to have the report dismissed because of the supposed “personal loan” that FDWs have actually been forced to take and is actually fraudulent.

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