Domestic workers still being ripped off by employment agencies

Flickr/IDWF

Domestic workers in Hong Kong continue to be exploited by employment agencies charging illegally high fees, according to a new survey.

The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) surveyed 452 domestic workers, 56 percent of whom reported that they were charged placement fees above the legal limit, averaging HK$9,013 (US$1,148.)

Hong Kong law stipulates that employment agencies can charge clients no more than 10 percent on their first month’s wages. The average monthly salary for a domestic worker in Hong Kong, according to the site HelperChoice, is HK$4,545 (US$579.)

FADWU staff also went undercover at 18 different employment agencies between November 2017 and March 2018. They observed seven licensed agencies saying that they charge between HK$3,500 and HK$10,000 (US$446 to US$1,274) to help domestic workers find new jobs.

FADWU has been contacted for comment.

Illegal placement fees have been high on advocates’ list of issues for years.

FADWU, along with KOBUMI-HK, interviewed domestic workers between July 2017 and this last March. Part of the goal was to assess how effective the Labour Department’s Code of Practice for Employment Agencies has been since it went into effect in January 2017.

In one case included in the study, an Indonesian migrant domestic worker who arrived in June 2016 was told to pay HK$2,410 (US$307) every month for six months. A member of the employment agency also confiscated her phone and passport.

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