FDHs who complained of working for more than 16 hours a day increasing—NGO

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MFMW general manager Cynthia Abdon


The number of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong who complained that they were made to work for more than 16 hours a day increased by nine percent from last year, according to a migrant rights group.

The Mission For Migrant Workers (MFMW) said that the number of FDHs who sought its help to complain about working for more than 16 hours increased from 34 percent last year to 43 percent this year.

“Nine out of every 10 complain about long working hours and lack of rest. There is a nine percent increase for those who reportedly work more than 16 hours daily,” said MFMW’s Service Report 2018.

It added that 99 percent of FDHs who sought the group’s assistance claimed that they worked 11 hours or more daily. The group helped 5,188 migrant workers last year, 78 percent of them were Filipinos while 20 percent were Indonesians.

The report also monitored a 13 percent increase in the number of workers who sought help for the premature termination of their contracts.

“It is important to note that 59 percent of our service users have experienced premature termination of their contracts, an increase of 13 percent,” the MFMW said.

“Losing their jobs means staying in Hong Kong for only 14 days until they are able to find new jobs. But they are still required to return to their home countries to wait for their new visas,” it said.

“However, if they wish to pursue claims and entitlements, they will have to depend on charity, as they are prohibited from working during the course of the case,” it added.

MFMW general manager Cynthia Abdon said the results showed “that much work still has to be done” to improve the plight of FDHs in Hong Kong.

“While it is alarming that there is a 9 percent increase in those who report that they work more than 16 hours a day, 8 percent increase in those who report that they have labour issues, let us not be disheartened. This only proves that we have much work to do,” she said.

Abdon noted that domestic workers who had “insufficient food” increased by two percent, those who had no regular days off increased by 7 percent, while those who complained that their agencies kept their documents from them increased by 8 percent.

“There is a 7 percent increase for those who reported they are treated badly by their employers. Those who report that they have been physically assaulted by their employers have doubled compared to 2017 (from 5 percent to 10 percent),” she said.

On the other hand, Abdon also noted that there was a 20 percent decrease in FDHs who reported that they do not have their own private room.

“While the process of making the Hong Kong accommodation policy respectful of migrant domestic workers rights seems slow, we can at least see that at the household level, there are changes,” Abdon said.

“This we can see, since the launching of the Mission’s Pictures from the Inside research two years ago. We hope that our social advocacy is helping to establish better mutual understanding, and recognition of domestic workers rights and needs among well-meaning households,” she added.

Abdon said this development was not reason enough that the situation of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in HK was improving.

“All this shows how just the workers’ demands for working hours regulation, wages, and workers’ rights. The data also shows how urgent these demands are. We hope that in the near future, more meaningful and long-lasting changes will be enacted that will lead to MDWs treated fairly. If the other positive results are an indication, then we have hope,” she said.


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