Scrap live-in rule for maids, say advocacy groups

They say living with employers should be optional and workers' hours should be capped

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 5:47am

The government should scrap the mandatory live-in rule and cap working hours for foreign domestic workers, according to advocacy groups.

They will take their call for legislative change to Victoria Park, the Indonesian consulate and the government headquarters today as part of Labour Day activities.

A survey by the Mission for Migrant Workers found that almost half of Hong Kong's foreign domestic helpers worked more than 16 hours a day and about one-third did not have their own room in their employer's home. The groups and unions urged the government to let workers and employers negotiate whether the worker would live with the employer, as was the case before 2003 when the mandatory live-in rule came in.

Of the 3,000 mainly Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers surveyed by the mission, 35 per cent preferred to live outside their employer's home and 44 per cent wanted to live in.

"The live-in employment arrangement should be made optional," Asian Migrants' Co-ordinating Body spokeswoman Eni Lestari said yesterday. "This will greatly lessen the exposure of foreign domestic workers to abuse and reduce any inconvenience."

The groups said letting foreign domestic workers decide where to live could improve their working conditions and employers who could not provide proper accommodation could instead pay their rent.

The survey, conducted from June last year to February, found that 30 per cent of the helpers did not have their own room. They were forced to share a bedroom with other members of the household, including men, or sleep in common areas such as a kitchen, with little privacy. A quarter of those polled said their sleeping arrangements made them worried for their safety.

Forty-six per cent of the interviewees said they worked at least 16 hours a day. The groups did not nominate a daily cap on work hours but Lestari said 15 hours a day should be the maximum. The live-in rule was introduced in 2003 to protect local workers by stopping foreign helpers from taking part in illegal or other part-time work at night. Confederation of Trade Unions' organising co-ordinator Lam Ying-hing said there was no evidence of such a problem before the rule came in.