60pc of helpers verbally abused, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 4:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 6:19am

The majority of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong have been verbally abused by their bosses, while 7 per cent suffered physical abuse, a survey found.

Some 60 per cent of the 1,026 helpers questioned had been shouted or sworn at, the survey by two welfare groups on behalf of broadcaster DBC found. The finding on verbal abuse echoes that of a wider study in 2012.

"It usually happens when they make mistakes. For example, those helpers who do not reach the standards of the employers will get abused. Some employers are not patient enough," said Cynthia Ca Abdon-Tellez, head of the Mission for Migrant Workers, which carried out the study last month along with the Asian Migrants' Co-ordinating Body.

The survey also found that 7 per cent of helpers had been physically abused; 3 per cent sexually harassed; 27 per cent forced to work long hours; 7 per cent had pay deducted; and 1 per cent were not paid at all. The figures for physical and sexual abuse are lower than in a study of 3,000 workers carried out by the mission in 2012, and released last August, which found that 18 per cent suffered physical abuse and 6 per cent sexual abuse.

Yesterday, an Indonesian helper who came to Hong Kong in February recalled how she was abused by her former employer.

"My employer always slapped me because I didn't understand English well. She asked me not to tell anyone but I called the police," she said, with the help of a translator.

While the law punishes physical assaults, it would be "very difficult" to prosecute in cases of verbal abuse, said Mark Daly, a human rights lawyer.

The welfare of the city's 320,000 helpers has been in the spotlight since the story of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih broke in January. The Indonesian woman suffered months of alleged physical abuse. Her former employer has been charged with abusing Erwiana and two other maids.