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Hong Kong: Pandemic highlights Hong Kong’s reliance on migrant domestic workers and the government’s failure to protect them

Hong Kong: Pandemic highlights Hong Kong’s reliance on migrant domestic workers and the government’s failure to protect them

by Fish Ip published Feb 25, 2022 07:41 PM
The pandemic has highlighted how important migrant domestic workers are to families in Hong Kong, yet new research reveals that the government’s mechanisms to protect them are not fit for purpose.



20 February 2022, 03:00 UTC / 11:00 Hong Kong

The pandemic has highlighted how important migrant domestic workers are to families in Hong Kong, yet new research reveals that the government’s mechanisms to protect them are not fit for purpose.

Research published today clearly shows that five years since coming into force, the Hong Kong government’s Code of Practice for Employment Agencies (CoP) is being widely flouted by agencies, leaving migrant domestic workers at risk of abuse and exploitation. Yet rather than addressing the failings of their own policies, the government has targeted domestic workers who seek better terms and conditions at work (so-called ‘job-hopping’) and unfairly punished them.

The new report, Fit for Purpose - assessing compliance with the Code of Practice, is based on qualitative interviews with 105 Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers between April and June 2021. It was produced by the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) in collaboration with the Union of United Domestic Workers (UUDW) as a follow-up to the 2018 report Agents of Change? that provided a similar assessment of the CoP.

“The government, including the Labour Department and Immigration Department, have had five years to take action against these agencies and reform discriminatory policies that increase the risk of migrant domestic workers being exploited. Yet, our research shows that, if anything, the situation has got worse”, said Phobusk Gasing, Chairperson of FADWU.

Fit for Purpose assesses components of the CoP designed to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers. Its findings reveal that full compliance with the CoP is practically non-existent, with 100% of agencies cited in the survey in breach of one or more provisions. For the most serious offences, punishable by imprisonment, 57% of respondents reported that their employment agency was in breach of the law (either by collecting illegal fees upon arrival; charging illegal fees for changing jobs; and/or confiscated passports).

The research also found that well over half of interviewees were charged illegal fees at some point, with newly arrived migrants paying agency fees averaging HKD 12,446 - more than 26 times the legal permitted maximum. Of those who changed employers in Hong Kong, 46% were charged what likely amounted to illegal agency fees averaging HKD 6,235.

"This new research shows that non-compliance with the Code of Practice is not confined to a few rogue agencies, but rather a widespread problem throughout Hong Kong. Five years since coming into force the CoP is clearly not able to do the job it was designed for”, said Phobusk Gasing, Chairperson of FADWU.

The report also documents that 29% of interviewees had their personal documents—mainly pass-ports and contracts—illegally taken from them. In 70% of these cases, this was done by their employment agency. If these figures are indicative of the wider population this would amount to over 100,000 individuals having their personal documents, including passports,
illegal confiscated.

Even basic provisions such as providing receipts for payments received from domestic workers are being widely ignored, with a staggering 88% of respondents either not provided a receipt or given an inaccurate one. By ignoring this provision, there is no record of what agencies charge domestic workers. As a result, prosecutions for illegal fees are much more difficult.

"Many employment agencies know they can largely ignore the CoP and continue to act illegally. This is because they have little fear of being caught and that the punishments imposed are not enough to act as a deterrent. As the problem is so pervasive, migrant domestic workers have little choice but to go along with the demands of these unscrupulous agencies”, said Gasing.

The report highlights that the vast majority of employment agencies continue to violate multiple provisions of the CoP without serious consequences. This is evidenced by the fact that the Labour Department reported only 10 convictions of employment agencies found to be in breach of employment laws between 2019 and 2021. This is despite receiving 475, 290 and 269 complaints respectively over that period about agencies serving migrant domestic workers.

For the small number of agencies found in breach of the law, the average fine imposed over this period for overcharging job seekers was only HKD 16,660. This is made significantly higher by one fine of HKD 84,000. If this outlier is removed, the average is reduced by over half to HKD 8,260. Given the full extent of the powers available to the Labour Department and the profits made by employment agencies for the placement of workers, it is difficult to see how the amount levelled as fines can act as a significant disincentive.

“FADWU’s research clearly shows that on nearly every metric the CoP is failing to address the problems it was designed to solve. It is time for the Labour Department to admit that after nearly five years the CoP is not fit for purpose and to introduce legislation, robust monitoring, and effective prosecutions to force compliance by employment agencies”, said Gasing.

The Code of Practice for Employment Agencies (CoP) was introduced by the Labour Department in January 2017. When the draft CoP was published, the Labour Department stated that it would, “closely monitor the effectiveness of the CoP [and] in case the CoP could not achieve its objective, LD may consider adopting other means including, inter alia, seeking legislative amendments to EO [Employment Ordinance] and/or EAR [Employment Agency Regulation] to suitably regulate the industry.”

The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU).
FADWU is the only registered trade union federation of domestic workers in Hong Kong organising local and migrant domestic workers. It is an affiliate of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF). Its current affiliates include the Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union (HKDWGU), Thai Migrant Workers Union in Hong Kong (TMWU), Union of Nepalese Domestic Workers in Hong Kong (UNDW), Overseas Domestic Workers Union (ODWU), and Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong (PLU). It currently has 847 paying members via its affiliates.

Tel +852 6851 2879
Email [email protected]

Union of United Domestic Workers (UUDW)
UUDW is a trade union of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong. It was established on 26 February 2020 and is registered at the Registry of Trade Unions in Hong Kong (TU/1400). The purpose of the UUDW is to help domestic workers in Hong Kong who have problems with employers and agents, promote and uphold the right and welfare of domestic workers, and empower and strengthen domestic workers to improve working conditions by raising violations that occur through advocacy, action and dialogue. It does this through programmes capacity building activities, education, policy advocacy, organising, and legal assistance/services.

Tel +852 6642 8606
Email [email protected]

Notes for editors:
The full report is available to view online:

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
[email protected]
Whatsapp: +852 6851 2879



 Chinese statement as below:-


2022年2月20日 ( 世界協調時間03:00 / 香港標準時間 11:00 )



最新發表之研究報告名為《恰如其分?評估過去五年《職業介紹所業務守則》的依循情況》。研究於2021年4至6月期間進行,定性訪問了150名菲律賓籍/印尼籍家務移工。報告由香港亞洲家務工工會聯會與the Union of United Domestic Workers (團結家務工工會)協作撰寫,是2018年發表之報告《推動變革的中介?對香港僱傭中心依循《職業介紹所業務守則》之評估》的跟進研究。早前的研究對《守則》作出了類近的評估。

香港亞洲家務工工會聯會主席Phobusk Gasing(博嘉聲)指出,特區政府的勞工處及入境事務處本應有五年的時間去採取行動以打擊無良中介,以及改革容易令工友受到剝削的歧視性政策;可是我們的研究表明,剝削情況只有越來越嚴重。

《恰如其分?》評估《守則》中針對保障家務移工的部份。研究結果顯示,完全遵守《守則》的情況實質上並不存在:調查發現,百份之一百的中介公司違反了一至兩項《守則》的條款。至於嚴重違規、可被判入獄的情況,百份之五十七的受訪者指出,中介公司違反法律 (包括到埗時收取非法費用,轉工時收取非法費用,及/或沒收護照)。


香港亞洲家務工工會聯會主席Phobusk Gasing 表示,是次研究結果證明,違反《守則》是全港性的普遍問題,並不只涉及個別無良中介;《守則》已實施五年,仍未能達到其制定之目的。






Gasing (博)主席總結指,香港亞洲家務工工會聯會的研究結果表明《守則》幾乎在各方面都未能處理到其制定時要解決的問題;勞工處現在是時候去承認,《守則》經過五年都無法達成目的,應該要以立法,加強監察和有效的檢控來強制令中介公司守法經營。


勞工處在2017年頒佈《職業介紹所實務守則》。公佈《守則》草案時,勞工處表示會「密切監察《守則》的效用 [以及] 如《守則》未能達到目的,勞工處會考慮採用其他措施,其中包括尋求修訂《僱傭條例》及 / 或《職業介紹所規例》以更適合地規管該行業。

香港亞洲家務工工會聯會是本港唯一組織本地及外籍家務工的已註冊工會聯會,是國際家務工聯會(IDWF)的成員,本地屬會有香港家務助理總工會、Thai Migrant Workers Union (TMWU) Hong Kong (泰國移工工會)、Union of Nepalese Domestic Workers in Hong Kong (香港尼泊爾家務工工會)、Overseas Domestic Workers Union(海外家務工工會),及Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong(進步家務工工會 )。透過屬會,本會有847名收費會員。

電話 +852 6851 2879
電郵 [email protected]

Union of United Domestic Workers(團結家務工工會 )
團結家務工工會是本港家務移工的工會之一,於2020年2月26日成立,登記編號 TU/1400。本會致力於協助在香港與僱主及中介公司有困難的家務工,促進及維護家務移工的權益及福祉,並在有侵權的情況下,透過倡議、行動及對話以賦權家務工去改善其工作環境。工作包括活動、教育、政策倡議、組織以及法律協助。

電話 +852 6642 8606
電郵 [email protected]


[email protected]
Whatsapp: +852 6851 2879


Story Type: Update

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