Helpers for Domestic Helpers has been assisting and empowering members of the domestic worker community since 1989.
When things go wrong, HDH provides a high level of service thanks to the help of dedicated volunteers with various professional backgrounds, including a number of lawyers. We welcome donations and new volunteers.
There are over 320,000 foreign domestic workers (FDHs) in Hong Kong. The vast majority are women from the Philippines and Indonesia, with a small percentage also coming from Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Most places these workers originate from have limited job opportunities. This forces them to leave their families behind in order to earn a living abroad and support their dependents at home.
In Hong Kong, the presence of FDHs helps compensate for a shortage of formal child care and elderly care facilities. Because these segments of the population cannot care for themselves, families depend on FDHs to supervise them and attend to their needs.
Economic research indicates the contribution of FDW to Hong Kong’s economy in 2012 was 6.6% of Hong Kong’s GDP, or approximately HK$134billion. This is double the contribution of the construction sector, and around the same as the accommodation and food sectors.
The Challenges for Hong Kong’s Domestic Workers
Domestic workers hear face both circumstances and laws that make living safely and accordance with international human rights law challenging.
Lack of Privacy
FDHs are legally obliged to live in their employers’ residences. While FDHs are contractually entitled to “suitable accommodation” and “reasonable privacy”, many employers do not fulfill this responsibility. Here at HDH, we have seen particularly egregious cases in which FDHs are made to sleep under dining room tables, on the bathroom floor, or with teenagers of the opposite sex.In addition to depriving FDHs of their privacy and personal space, the live-in requirement promotes excessive working hours and exacerbates FDHs’ vulnerability to abuse.
Cases of abuse are relatively common among FDHs. It is not uncommon for a domestic worker to seek assistance at HDH for issues regarding verbal, physical or sometimes even sexual abuse. Many foreign domestic workers do not speak out against abuse because of the discriminatory law in Hong Kong, which only gives them two weeks to secure employment once they leave a position. After that time period they must leave the country and return on another visa, which many cannot afford.
Lack of Adequate Rest
Many FDHs work excessive hours with little opportunity for rest. Hong Kong has no upper limit on the number of hours a FDH can be required to
work, with the exception of one contractual rest day each week. According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International, the Indonesian FDHs interviewed worked an average of 17 hours per day. Further, many of these FDHs reported being “on-call” 24 hours per day, sometimes being roused from their sleep to perform tasks for their employers. - Amnesty International
To learn more about the legal issues that affect domestic workers, including the human rights that are relevant to their field, please visit out HDH and Human Rights page.
Over the past past 25 years, HDH has helped over 25,000 foreign domestic workers seek justice and safety due to the working environments. We could not have achieved such success without the volunteers who are so deeply committed to our cause. To learn more about getting involved with HDH, click here.