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  • Oct 23, 2014
  • Updated: 7:42pm
NewsHong Kong

Amnesty urges Indonesia, China to ratify domestic workers convention

'Slave-like' conditions of Indonesian helpers in city highlighted by human rights group, which says employers are allowed to flout labour laws

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 10:46am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 November, 2013, 10:13am


  • Yes: 36%
  • No: 35%
  • To a certain degree: 29%
21 Nov 2013
  • Yes
  • No
  • To a certain degree
Total number of votes recorded: 575

Amnesty International has urged Indonesia and China to ratify an international convention on working conditions for foreign domestic helpers.

The call comes after a study found that Hong Kong's 148,000 Indonesian domestic helpers work in "slave-like" conditions.

"It is inexcusable that the Hong Kong and Indonesian governments turn a blind eye to the trafficking of thousands of vulnerable women for forced labour," Norma Kang Muico, an Asia-Pacific researcher at the human rights body, said yesterday.

The husband verbally abused me, calling me crazy and stupid. He also slapped and punched me in the ear, arm and back, which left bruises

The study, which included 97 in-depth interviews with Indonesian helpers from May last year to March this year, found that they worked on average 17 hours a day, half were denied their statutory weekly day off and two-thirds had been physically or verbally abused.

Video: Hong Kong domestic workers 'treated as slaves': Amnesty

Almost all the helpers had their passports or contracts confiscated by local agencies or employers in case they attempted to run away to escape exploitation.

"The husband verbally abused me, calling me crazy and stupid," said one domestic helper quoted in the report. "He also slapped and punched me in the ear, arm and back, which left bruises."

Muico said that 10 countries, including the Philippines - the other main source of Hong Kong's domestic helpers - had ratified the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 189 concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

It states that each member shall take measures to protect the human rights of domestic workers, and ensure that they are protected against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence.

Workers' rest breaks have to be at least 24 consecutive hours per week and measures must be taken to ensure the fees charged by employment agencies are not deducted from the helpers' pay.

The Indonesian government allows the country's agencies to charge domestic workers about HK$10,300 in recruitment fees. The Hong Kong government also allows local agencies to charge 10 per cent of their first month's salary, or HK$401.

Muico recalled that Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in 2011 that his country "must support" the convention and that he believed it could provide guidance on protecting domestic workers to governments which send and those which host them, but Indonesia had still not ratified it.

Muico said the Hong Kong government should pursue with Beijing the ratification of the convention, as the SAR government was not an ILO member.

Neither the Indonesian consulate nor the Labour Department commented on the convention, but both said they were fully committed to protecting the Indonesian helpers.

Sam Aryadi, vice-consul for public affairs, said that 26 agencies had received punishments such as warnings or suspension of licences since 2009. In addition, 190 employers were permanently barred from hiring Indonesian helpers.

The department has conducted 958 inspections at agencies last year, and 784 inspections in the first nine months this year. Two agencies had their licences revoked last year and three from January to September this year.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, vice-chairwoman of the General Chamber of Manpower Agencies, disagreed with the findings and said abuses were rare.


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This article is now closed to comments

If the working conditions here are so poor, why are they still here and more wanting to come? Is there another agency that can interview employers about their grievances with foreign maids? One example given here of a maid seducing her employer is not funny.
One of my friends says he has to fire a helper every year. They start asking to borrow money all the time.
Another friend says it only costs 100 HK to get what he wants. Hey, 100,000 out of 150,000 is a lot. 60 out of 97 is nothing.
I did not grow up in Hong Kong and I know others would have a hard time believing it. But domestic helpers can spin lies so well and so easily. Amnesty international have fallen for the biggest orcastrated trick of all times.
Domestic helpers have shared the same stories so often that it just becomes second nature for them to spew the story out as if it happened to them when it is just a story they heard.
I had 3 maids before and I heard the exact same stories from all 3. No variation and they all claimed it happened to them. Even the story of having a past employer who lived in Singapore but moved to Hong Kong I heard from 2 of them.
The gossip and the stories became so annoying that I will only hire local Hong Kong helpers. The last 3 years with local helpers has been the best 3 years. No nightly **** to deal with. No lies to listen to. No excusesto hear.
I am just so glad I am no longer one of the suckers who has to deal with a domestic helper.
Let's start promoting after school child care, shorter working hours and local helpers. People's sanity will improve.
HK Chinese government must apologize, provide compensation and give sanctions to the Indonesian government. :-)
It reminded me of my Indonesian DH friend in HK. Her lady HK Chinese boss is kinda insecure and not good to her, she got late monthly payment and even verbally abuse. So, when the lady boss is out, why not seduce Mister boss and have fun. I remembered her story, the HK Chinese guy boss likes everything she does. HAHA. Up to now, she's having so much fun with the guy boss. Recently, the mainland Chinese guy driver is the new toy. HAHA.
the story of amnesty is the world's biggest lie. amnesty cannot blame anyone without knowing the truth. the truth is the maids are very well informed about their jobs to be done by the employers before signing the contract and then the maids accept the jobs. the maids are very much adult. after joining the work if these maids are not satisfied by just one thing they make a big fuss out of it and start threatening the employers, runaway and file a case. some employers may be torturing their maids it doesn't mean you have to blame the whole city employers? are you cracking a joke or trying to fool hk people. how foolish, all 148,ooo maids are mistreated. it is better they leave the city.
97 interviews is very representative of 148k.
Do you know what our helper demanded when she started to work with us? She wants to work on Sundays and holiday to earn more money. She doesn't want to have rest days and holidays as she said: "I am not here do make holiday". If we do not agree she won't extend her contract and will look for another employer.
It is sometimes their own will to do so and skip the Rest Days and Holidays. As I have 2 kids at home, I was ok with it and pay her more. But you presented this as if we are forcing them to skip their holidays and rest days.
Camel, sorry to tell you. You just made a $4,000 mistake. That is what the judge will say you have to give her once the contract is up. She will have already secretly recorded a conversation which she will present. Even though she asks if you say yes you are at fault. Been there and paid for it later.




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