Labor cases stemming from violations of contract, and illegal practices of recruitment agencies in Hong Kong have remained as the top problems of foreign domestic workers, according to the 2014 Casework Report released today by the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW), the pioneer HK NGO providing relief and assistance to FDWs in distress.
Despite of the media spotlight on FDW predicament due to Erwiana Sulistyaningsih’s case, MFMW statistics showed that various violations of workers’ rights including provision of proper wage, entitlements, and rest days; as well as illegal practices of placement agencies, have remained rampant.
Based on MFMW records, more than 4,000 FDWs approached the MFMW in person or by phone with their various problems. Of this, 51% had labor-related case while 46% involved agency malpractices.
Marked labor violations were noticed especially to those with prematurely terminated contracts who comprised 56% of our clients. Contract termination posed even more burden to the FDWs as they find it hard to look for employment replacement due to the New Conditions of Stay or the Two-Week Rule.
Meanwhile, many cases of agency malpractices involved charging exorbitant amount of agency fees from the workers, and confiscation of their documents. Fifty (50) HK placement agencies were reportedly involved in charging FDWs more than HK$15,000 for employment, while the ceiling for agency fees in Hong Kong is only 10% of worker’s first-month wage, or HK$411 as per the current Minimum Allowable Wage.
Efforts to run after erring agencies remain insufficient as only four (4) agencies were successfully prosecuted last year. One serious obstacle that the MFMW has repeatedly pointed out to the Labour Department is the condition put by the Employment Agency Administration (EAA) for evidences such as receipts before they accept a complaint of overcharging even though non-issuance of receipts by erring recruiters and moneylenders is a known practice. Also, the six-month statutory barrier makes many of the complaints inadmissible.
The MFMW report also showed a marked increase in physical assault cases –
from 3.6% in 2013 to 9% in 2014. This may be attributed to the wide exposure of Erwiana’s case which may have encouraged more migrants with similar experience to come forward.
Apart from contractual violations, long working hours has also remained a common problem with 82% saying they were made to work for 11 hours or more. Of this, 46% said they worked for more than 16 hours a day.
The lack of statutory regulation on working hour in Hong Kong and the mandatory live-in policy has put live-in domestic workers in such a working environment whilst the workers are practically working on call round-the-clock.
Download: MFMW Casework 2014