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  • Jul 30, 2014
  • Updated: 5:28am

Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Foreign domestic workers make up around 3 per cent of the Hong Kong population. In 2013, there were some 320,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, of which 50 per cent were from the Philippines, 47 per cent from Indonesia, and the rest from Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Hong Kong law states that such workers must reside with their employers. Their wages are subject to a statutory minimum of HK$4,010 per month from September 30 last year. There have been several high-profile court cases in which domestic workers have alleged torture and abuse at the hands of their employers. According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International, Indonesian migrant domestic workers are at risk of serious human and labour rights violations in Hong Kong.

NewsHong Kong

Myanmese domestic helpers asked to pay high agency fees to work in Hong Kong

Advocates for domestic helpers say they will struggle to repay HK$16,000, raising potential for exploitation amid lack of support networks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 11:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 February, 2014, 9:10am

Domestic helpers coming to Hong Kong from Myanmar will have to pay about HK$16,000 to their home recruitment agency - the highest fee in the region.

The Myanmese agency, Gold Mine International, had invested HK$1 million in the business, according to its Hong Kong partner, which said it was legal to charge workers this much.

But advocates for domestic workers fear it will be difficult for them to repay so much money. They are concerned that the helpers will be more vulnerable than workers from the Philippines and Indonesia due to the lack of established support networks for them in Hong Kong.

The lives of domestic workers in the city have come under the spotlight after an Indonesian maid, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, was allegedly abused at the hands of her employer, causing public alarm.

"They can pay in instalments and pay [the Myanmese agency] HK$2,000 a month. They are willing to do so and they can pay back the money in full in months," said Law Yiu-keung, managing director of the Golden Mind Employment Agency in Hong Kong.

He said the workers would make HK$4,010 a month in Hong Kong, five times more than the US$100 they could expect to make in general employment in Myanmar. Law said his agency would only charge them HK$401, in line with the city's law.

Leo Tang Kin-wa, organising secretary at the Confederation of Trade Unions, said Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers had been in Hong Kong for years and had a support network.

"Myanmese workers do not have this network … they may also struggle to get help because they will need time to master Chinese and English," he said.

He suggested the Myanmese government and local employers share the HK$16,000 charge.

The Philippine government does not allow agencies to charge workers, although some agencies break the law and charge tens of thousands of pesos. The Indonesian government allows agencies to charge workers about HK$13,500 for expenses such as medical checks and training.

Oake Khaung, founder of Gold Mine International, admitted that training and travel costs would be deducted from salaries.

Law added that the first group of 19 Myanmese helpers would arrive on February 18 and he hoped to import up to 2,000 this year. Hongkongers who want to hire a Myanmese helper must pay HK$8,900 to Law's agency.

Khin Way Oo, director of migrant affairs at Myanmar's Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, said Hong Kong recruitment agencies had become very active in Myanmar. But she declined to answer questions about regulations covering the export of domestic workers.

Additional reporting by Vincent Maclsaac in Yangon


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This article is now closed to comments

"Gold Mine International" Says it all.
Of course the Hong Kong agency is also keeping back part of the $16,000, maybe as much as 50%, so for one placement the agency may gross over $16,000. The helper from a country where she can earn less than HK$1000/month is bearing 2/3 of the cost and the HK employer, who by law, must earn more than $15,000/month to qualify to hire a helper is bearing 1/3 of the total cost. Does sound very equitable. This $16,000 is the main reason agencies are turning away from placing Filipinos. The Philippines government "says" they will no longer tolerate their workers paying high fees, so the HK agencies are turning to countries where they can still make a hefty profit from placements.
simplistic and wrong opinions
of someone biased and igorant
HK agents depending on native agencies for FDH supply
can't expect natives to share their spoils
HK’s social and official responses to Erwinana
have enhanced the city’s attraction to FDH’s
Hence profiteering exploitators are asking ever higher fees
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