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Government response to media enquiries on foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong

     In response to media enquiries on the situation of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong, a government spokesman today (March 15) said:

     "The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government attaches great importance to protecting the statutory rights of FDHs in Hong Kong.

     Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world which grant statutory labour rights and benefits to FDHs, same as those enjoyed by local workers. FDHs are offered additional protection through the government-prescribed Standard Employment Contract under which they can enjoy benefits like free food, free accommodation, free medical treatment and free passages to and from their home countries.

     Both the Government and the Hong Kong community do not tolerate any abuse or exploitation of FDHs. The Government has been encouraging FDHs to file reports with the authorities and to act as prosecution witness if they have been or suspect that they are subject to abuse or exploitation (e.g. underpayment of wages and non-granting of statutory holidays). The authorities will thoroughly investigate into all reported cases and promptly take out prosecution if there is sufficient evidence.

     To enhance the understanding of FDHs, employers and employment agencies (EAs) of the FDHs' rights and benefits, and make FDHs aware of the channels for seeking assistance, the Labour Department (LD) has already reinforced publicity and promotional efforts. In addition, LD has stepped up liaison and promotion work on FDH's employment rights and complaint channels with the governments of the FDH sending countries and their consulates in Hong Kong.

     The debts owed by FDHs might be related to the charging of intermediary or training fees back in the FDHs' home countries before they come to Hong Kong. This issue needs to be tackled at source. The HKSAR Government has been discussing with the governments of the major FDH sending countries on ways to alleviate the debt burden of FDHs and will continue to follow up on this.

    It is not a requirement of HKSAR Government that FDHs must be recruited or employed through EAs. On agency fee, EAs in Hong Kong are only allowed to charge no more than 10 per cent of the first month's salary of the FDHs under Hong Kong laws. FDHs who have been or suspect themselves having been overcharged by EAs should file complaints with LD.

    To strengthen the regulation over EAs, LD has already increased the annual inspections target to EAs by 38 per cent since 2014. A draft Code of Practice for the industry aimed at tightening the monitoring of EAs will soon be issued for consultation with stakeholders.

     It must be stressed that the importation of live-in FDHs to Hong Kong has been allowed primarily to meet the acute and long-standing shortage of full-time live-in domestic helpers in the local labour market. We do not have serious shortage in the live-out domestic helper market locally."

Ends/Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Issued at HKT 23:17


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