03/22/2023, 19.42
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Hong Kong to crackdown on domestic workers changing employer

For the Department of Labour, it is “too easy” for domestic workers to change jobs. Workers’ rights advocates reiterate that changing job is a right and is difficult to do.  Domestic workers, who are mostly women from Indonesia and the Philippines, are 5 per cent of the population.


Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hong Kong authorities want to introduce more stringent labour laws to stop “job hopping” among domestic workers, most of whom come from Southeast Asia.

In response, the latter affirm that changing jobs is a “human right”. To make this point, the Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body (AMCB) held a rally on Monday outside the Department of Labour, with participants holding signs that read “stop discrimination" and "we are workers, not slaves."

The group’s spokesperson, Dolores Balladares, said that changing employers was “one of the [last] things” a domestic worker would do because they could pay “a big price” if they end their contracts early, including paying a large sum to employment agencies as well as waiting for a new work visa.

Hong Kong authorities are not new with respect to targeting domestic workers; in fact, they recently took action against one of their main advocates, trade union leader Elizabeth Tang.

“If we are not doing good, if we are not feeling good, if we don’t receive any good treatment with our [employer], it’s the right of an individual to look for a better [employer],” Balladares stressed.

Sringatin, the chairperson of the Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union, said she hoped the government would meet with domestic workers.

Under the Department of Labour’s proposal, employment agencies would explain to domestic workers that applications to change employer before the completion of the standard two-year contract will “normally not be approved,” apart from “exceptional circumstances”.

The latter include “the transfer, migration, death” or the original employer, “financial reasons” relating to the same, or in case “there is evidence that the [foreign domestic worker] has been abused or exploited.”

In Hong Kong, domestic workers number around 400,000 or 5 per cent of its population; 98 per cent are women, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines.

They are legally required to live with their employers, and if they lose their job, they have only two weeks to find another one.

For human rights groups, the treatment of domestic workers is a modern form of slavery.

A 2021 survey found that cases of sexual abuse and harassment suffered by foreign domestic workers in the workplace tripled in 2020.

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