It’s not just Wendy Deng who treats her maids like absolute crap. Amnesty International condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by thousands of women who work as domestic staff in Hong Kong in a report, “Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments” released last Thursday, via the Wall Street Journal.
The women come over looking for jobs as maids and houseworkers through Hong Kong based recruitment agencies and are mislead with false promises of high pay and good working conditions, then forced to pay astronomical recruitment fees and put into abusive households. In Hong Kong, domestic workers are legally required to live with their employers, and the workers are often afraid to speak out about their conditions for fear of incurring “termination fees” by the agencies.
The release of Amnesty International’s report actually comes just weeks after a Hong Kong couple were jailed for a crazy string of attacks on their Indonesian maid, including beating her with a bike chain and burning her with an iron.
“The principal mechanisms of coercion which are applied in both Indonesia and Hong Kong are the confiscation of identity documents, restrictions on freedom of movement and the manipulation of debt incurred through recruitment fees,” Amnesty International said in the report, based on 97 in-depth interviews with migrant workers and a survey of 930 women by the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union.
Amnesty also said that more than two-thirds of the women they interviewed had endured physical or phycological abuse.
A senior Indonesian labor official said new regulations had been introduced in April aimed at improving the welfare of migrant workers in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s Labor Department has also expressed its renewed commitment to defending migrant workers’ rights.
Rafendi Djamin, the executive director of the Human Rights Working Group, explained the root of the issue. “The magnitude of the problem is very big. There is under-capacity in terms of having to deal with millions of workers abroad, with hundreds and thousands of problems.”
More on the lives of Southeast Asian maids in HK here.
By Lauren Holdcroft
[Photo via flickr]