Amnesty International’s Stance on Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs)
Our position is supported by rigorous and credible research. Our research shows that migrant domestic workers are subject to a series of human rights and labour rights abuses, including:
- Overcharging Agency Fee: Agencies charge MDWs fees higher than the maximum permitted under the law, intentionally leaving them indebted. Agencies and employers illegally confiscate the documents of MDWs and restrict their freedom of movement. They will only get the documents back after their debts are cleared.
- Two-week Rule: MDWs must find a new employer and apply for work visa within two weeks of the termination of their contracts, or they have to leave Hong Kong. Such a rule leaves them powerless against abusive employers and reliant on agencies which might potentially exploit them.
- Live-in Arrangement: MDWs are required by law to live with their employers. This prevents workers from escaping exploitation and abuses. Their must also be on call 24 hours a day and live without privacy.
According to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which applies to Hong Kong, the government must “recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work”, including fair wages, remuneration which provides a decent living for themselves and their families, safe and healthy working conditions and reasonable working hours and holidays. Amnesty International urges the government to protect MDWs’ rights with laws and policy provisions, including:
- Thoroughly regulate and monitor placement agencies in its territory and sanction those which are operating in violation of Hong Kong’s laws (e.g. in respect to illegal wage deductions and confiscation of contracts or identity documents), including the application of criminal sanctions when appropriate;
- Amend the Two-Week Rule to allow migrant domestic workers a reasonable period to find new employment
- Amend current legislation which forces migrant domestic workers to live with their employers
Such stance is supported by our report published in November 2013 “Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments: Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers Trafficked to Hong Kong”, which provides that both the Hong Kong and Indonesian governments have failed to protect migrant domestic workers’ rights. They amount to trafficked population and victims of modern slavery.
The report can be downloaded in the following link: