Study shows FDHs still made to pay excessive fees

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FADWU members mark International Domestic Workers' Day in Chater Garden on June 17



A study released on Sunday (June 17) showed that foreign domestic workers are still made to pay excessive placement fees in Hong Kong despite the implementation of the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies (CoP).

The Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union (FADWU) study, dubbed “Agents of Change–Assessing Hong Kong employment agencies compliance with the Code of Practice”, showed that 56 percent of study respondents said that they were charged with illegal fees.

Under Hong Kong laws, employment agencies can charge only up to 10 percent of the domestic worker’s first month’s wages ($441 or 10 percent of the current minimum allowable wage of $4,410).

“Despite the CoP’s clear re-statement of existing legislation on agency fees, the current research shows that 56 percent of interviewees (253 out of the 450 who responded to this question) were charged illegal fees by employment agencies after their arrival in Hong Kong,” the study said.

“Furthermore, 30 percent of interviewees were also charged in advance of receiving their first month’s salary in contravention of the CoP,” it added.

The CoP stipulates that the 10 percent commission “shall only be charged after the job-seeker has received his/her first month’s wages” and so migrant domestic workers cannot be charged in advance.

Agencies that break the law a liable to a maximum fine of HK$350,000 and imprisonment for three years.

Among the new arrivals who were interviewed for the study, 57 percent were charged excessive fees by their Hong Kong agency.

“Out of this group, 132 interviewees paid through salary deduction. On average, they paid $9,013, more than 20 times the maximum chargeable agency fee, over 4.5 months,” the study said.

“The total fees ranged widely from $1,000 to $28,800. In addition, 112 interviewees paid an average of $1,151 upfront after their arrival in Hong Kong before starting their job or before receiving their first month’s salary,” it added.

The study also said that 51 percent of those who changed employers also paid excessive fees “but the amount that they paid was generally significantly lower than the fees charged to new arrivals.”

“The majority of this group paid upfront an average of $1,682, while eight interviewees paid an average of $3,164 through salary deduction over a three-month period. Even the lower average fee charged to those paying upfront is still more than four times the maximum legally permitted fee,” it added.

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