NEWS – 117 Student Activists Lobby Gov Committee to Limit Helper Working Hours 1

Student activists at International Christian School in Sha Tin have submitted 117 campaign postcards to the Standard Working Hours Committee.

students take action

The young justice advocates worked with HK Helpers Campaign to lobby the government committee to include domestic workers in Hong Kong’s upcoming legislation limiting working hours. Currently, helpers – like all local workers – can be made to work unlimited hours. Many domestic workers are indeed expected to be ‘on call’ 24/7.


VIDEO – The HK Domestic Workers Who Are Budding Writers

Whilst one local domestic worker has become a famed street photographer, others are trying their hand at writing. HKU student Peter Sabine has produced a short news piece about domestic workers who are documenting their experiences through writing. Cahaya Qu, a local Indonesian magazine run by Susie Utomo, is serving as a hub for budding writers who want to assist other helpers in putting pen to paper.

Utomo spoke last year at the Hong Kong Literary Festival, as reported by HK Helpers Campaign.


NEWS – New Survey Finds 97% of Filipino Helpers Are Burdened by Debt

Last Sunday, domestic worker NGO Enrich administered a survey amongst 100 migrant women. While the overall atmosphere at Charter Garden was cheerful with colourful dancing parades the survey painted an alarming picture of the financial situation of many migrant women in Hong Kong.

Helper debt

Most migrant women arrive in Hong Kong to work and save money in order to secure a better and brighter future for themselves and their families. Generally women save for things like their children’s education, a house, capital for business or a comfortable retirement.


NEWS – Building Bans Domestic Helper Residents From Own Clubhouse 2

A residential building in Yau Ma Tei has attempted to ban domestic worker residents from its clubhouse as their presence may ‘induce nuisance’ and affect the rights of other residents on Sundays. The sign was posted by management company Hong Yip Service Company (owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties) at their ‘No.8 The Waterloo‘ development. It told residents not to allow their helpers to use access cards during their holidays. However, domestic workers are themselves residents and – by law – have no choice but to live with their employers in the building.

Hung Yip Service Company

Hong Yip Service Company notice – click for full blingual version.

News of the policy emerged after a local resident complained to a local NGO. Asking to remain anonymous, he said “To categorise a group of people as a ‘nuisance’ based on their occupation is absolutely disgusting… What is the difference between a crowd of domestic helpers and a crowd of people who are not?” Although he said understood that having groups of visitors in the clubhouse may be undesirable, he noted that helpers have little place to go on their day off owing to their meagre salaries.


EVENTS – SAR Philharmonic Orchestra Fundraiser for Pathfinders on June 23rd

The SAR Philharmonic is playing for free a one-night charity concert for PathFinders (websiteFacebookdonate) on June 23rd. Pathfinders helps migrant children born in crisis in Hong Kong – most clients are former domestic helpers. The children are amongst the poorest and most needy in the city and Pathfinders helps the babies and kids by helping the mothers.

Seats cost HK$500 – it will be held at the Grand Hall, Lee Shau Kee Centre, HKU at 7pm, June 23rd. Facebook event.

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A recent story from Pathfinders…


VIDEO – ‘The Coming Out of Filipino Domestic Workers’

A post via HKU JMSC’s Domestic Worker Project, by Stephanie Burnett, Kevin Dharmawan and Thandiwe Moyo.

Domestic helpers in Hong Kong are known for the challenges they face – like having low wages and only one day off a week. But ironically, many Filipino helpers are feeling liberated. That’s because they can be more open about their lesbian partnerships, and they’re coming out to their families back home.


BLOG – When Indonesian Domestic Workers Sue

Dr Carol Tan is Reader in Law at SOAS in London where she teaches a course on migrant labour and the law and where she was also previously Chair of the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies. Calling upon extensive research and interviews of domestic workers, Dr Tan looks at how despite the fact that breaches of contract are common, a domestic worker wishing to find redress faces many challenges and only some domestic workers manage to sue their employers. She discusses what we can learn about enforcing rights from looking at the stories of how domestic workers became litigants. Two of her papers can be found on our resources page.


OP-ED – Helpers Set Up Own Libraries As Gov’t Ignores HK’s Biggest Minorities

A South China Morning Post article last week reported Hong Kong people are falling out of love with city libraries. The rampant usage of smartphones was cited for the decline in book rentals. Library officials lamented the decreasing figures and commentators criticised the cities reading culture, which has been ‘in decline for years’. On the other hand, domestic workers have been busy setting up unofficial mobile libraries across the city because the Hong Kong libraries don’t cater for their needs.

libraries ignore minorities

Since 2009, the department has expanded its library collection from 12.5 million books and multimedia materials to 13.1 million. Yet, the number of books rented fell 6.2 million over the past five years, from 61.7 million in 2009 to 55.5 million last year. A spokesperson for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the public libraries told the SCMP that “professional judgement was exercised in the acquisition of books to meet the different needs of various groups, including ethnic minorities”, and the collections remained “highly popular among readers”.


BLOG – Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong Exploited and Forgotten

Ethics in Action journal

Featured in the journal ‘Ethics in Action’

Summary of Amnesty International “Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments” (2013). By Meredith McBride on behalf the HK Helpers Campaign and the Asian Human Rights Commission.

“I don’t think that any country or territory has a good policy on domestic migrant workers, or migrant workers in general.  I think we’ll always have to struggle to prevent this race to the bottom.” Norma Kang Muico, Report author.

Nearly six months after the release of a report condemning the widespread mistreatment of maids in Hong Kong, little has changed in the Special Administrative Region of China. In its Report, Amnesty International pinpointed the plight of domestic workers in Hong Kong as one of the most severe cases of human rights abuses in the Asian region. Because of the Indonesian government’s poorly thought-out policies and lack of oversight, domestic workers from Indonesia are particularly vulnerable to corrupt agencies, outdated laws, and abuse at the hands of their employers in Hong Kong. “Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments” was released by Amnesty in November of 2013 in response to the continued exploitation of Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is home to over 325,000 domestic workers, nearly half of whom come from Indonesia. Migration for domestic work is an activity that benefits both sending and recipient countries. Globally, the International Labour Organization lists an official figure of 53 million people, primarily women, who are currently undertaking domestic work abroad, but claims that the actual figure is likely closer to 100 million. High levels of unemployment and underemployment at home, together with opportunities for higher wages lead many Indonesian women to pursue opportunities overseas.  According to the ILO, domestic work is one of the largest sources of employment for rural women from Indonesia. These overseas migrant workers sent home $US7.88 billion in 2013.

To prepare their report, Muico and others at Amnesty International conducted interviews with 97 Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong and Indonesia during 2012 and 2013. The researchers specifically sought women who had worked in Hong Kong in the previous five years and had experienced problems during their tenure. The group was chosen in order to better understand the systematic patterns of abuse facing Indonesian women in Hong Kong and the complicit policies of both countries.