Almost 95 per cent of foreign domestic workers are being exploited or forced into labour in Hong Kong, according to NGO Justice Centre Hong Kong.

One in six domestic workers are forced into labour and another two thirds of domestic workers show strong signs of exploitation, its report published on Tuesday said. Only 5.4 per cent of domestic workers show no signs of exploitation.

Graph showing percentage of domestic workers in forced labour or exploitation. Photo: Justice Centre Hong Kong.

Additionally, 14 per cent of those deemed to be forced into labour were trafficked into it, the study said.

Hong Kong ‘must come clean’

The centre surveyed a 1,000 domestic workers from more than eight countries and found that around 50,000 out of the 336,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong were being forced into labour.

The survey examined “recruitment practices, debt, salary, working hours, food, working and living conditions, treatment by their employer and other issues” in a 114-question survey. The findings were later analysed against indicators of forced labour based on guidelines released by the International Labour Organisation.

Piya Muqit, Executive Director of Justice Centre, said: “Hong Kong must come clean and acknowledge these problems; it can no longer afford to simply sweep them under the carpet.” 

Domestic workers at a protest. Photo: Robert Godden.

We urge the Hong Kong authorities to deepen their collaboration with sending country governments, and also to work closely with civil society; these are often the actors that first come into contact with victims of forced labour and human trafficking, and provide initial assistance,” Muqit added.

Four groups were identified to be most vulnerable to exploitation. They included domestic workers with excessive recruitment debt, workers on their first contracts, workers younger than 30, and workers from Indonesia.

Justice Centre Hong Kong is a non-profit organisation aimed at protecting the rights of vulnerable groups in Hong Kong, including refugees and survivors of torture.

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.