In 2016, monetary claims of foreign domestic workers for excessive charges of recruitment agencies and unpaid labour obligations dramatically increased while trend on major problems on their working and living condition remained unchanged.
This was revealed in the Service Report 2016 released by the Mission for Migrant Workers, a long-running NGO that provides emergency assistance to FDWs in distress and conducts social advocacy on attitudes and policies for the more than 300,000 FDWs in Hong Kong.
According to MFMW data, monetary claims of FDWs increased by 36% and about 85% of the claims were successfully recovered amounting to HK$3.07M.
Of the 5,038 clients served by the MFMW, the report also showed that long working hours, lack of private accommodation, and rest days and holidays still characterise the working and living situation of many FDWs, while insufficient food provision was revealed as an emerging concern.
Illegal practices of agencies and violations of labour obligations
Recovered monetary claims of FDWs were from illegal practices of recruitment agencies and violations of labor obligations.
MFMW handled or is handling cases of FDWs with complaints on fraud and illegal recruitment against some of the most notorious of these agencies that were exposed to the media such as Mike’s Secretarial Services/Emry’s, FindStaff and Yan Yee.
About half of the clients (51%) who approached the MFMW self-reported various illegal practices of recruitment agencies including illegal collection, overcharging of fees and fraudulent loans.
Of those who indicated the fee they paid, only 4% were charged with legal amount prescribed by Hong Kong policies (equivalent to 10% of the minimum allowable wage).
Ninety (90) HK recruitment agencies were reported by clients as committing overcharging. Among these, 23 charged more than HK$15,000 while the number of clients who reported this increased by 9%.
Usual amount collected by agencies ranges from HK$5,001 to HK$10,000 as reported by 47% of the clients while those who paid above HK$15,000 is a high 21%. It should be noted that recruitment fee collection relates closely to fraudulent loans as FDWs are deceived to take out loans to cover the fees resulting also to debt bondage.
Of all the clients, 56% had labour-related problems that include unpaid wages, unpaid benefits and premature termination of contract. Notably, 44% of the clients of MFMW had their contract terminated prematurely leading to their lack of capacity to support themselves while their complaints are processed.
No significant change in working and living conditions
Similar to 2015, long working hours topped the most experienced working condition of FDWs with 9 out 10 reporting said condition. Of this, 38% reported working for more than 16 hours per day while 62% work from 11 to 16 hours daily.
About 43% of the clients said they did not have private accommodation 29% are made to work before taking their dayoff, thus cutting the time and in violation of the labour provision for a continuous 24-hour rest day.
A significant addition for the year are report of insufficient food provision at 26% or 1 out of 4 of the MFMW clients.#
About the Service Report
The report compiles and analyses the number and nature of problems that the MFMW receives each year. It is done for the purpose of determining problem areas that may be improved to make better the situation and status of FDWs in Hong Kong. While it shows grim challenges that FDWs face, it also portrays the determination of many to pursue justice in the face of violations to their rights and dignity.
For a copy of the Service Report 2016, download the document here. Previous reports of the MFMW are also available in our website.
About the Mission for Migrant Workers
The Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW Limited) of the St. John’s Cathedral is a leading and trusted service provider and partner of Asian migrants and a committed advocate in building a caring and inclusive Hong Kong society.
Established in 1981, the MFMW believes that migrant workers as integral to but marginalised in Hong Kong, deserve care, respect and protection of their rights. MFMW provides crisis assistance services to FDWs in distress, empowers their communities, promotes harmony in households and works for a more multicultural and inclusive Hong Kong.