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FDHs complain of long hours, violence at work

30 March 2022


Long hours at work is the top complaint of FDHs.

Almost all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong -- 98 per cent, to be exact -- complained of long working hours last year, topping the list of concerns over their work conditions, the Mission for Migrant Workers said in its latest service report.

Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, the Mission's general manager, said this was made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced many employers to work from home, and their children to study at home.


Since most Hong Kong flats are small, the helpers had been forced to time their work to avoid disturbing their employers, thus spending longer hours daily while keeping themselves busy, she said.

This has also led to mental health issues, not just among employers, but especially among helpers who are forced to compromise and not look for a better work environment, lest they be denied a new visa by the Immigration Department for job hopping if they, she added.


The 2021 Service Report was compiled by the Mission to document the assistance it gave to 8,418 FDHs who approached it last year.

“Our clients usually report more than one problem when they approach us for help,” the Mission said. “For example, someone whose contract got terminated may also complain about illegal collection of agency fees as well as maltreatment.”


Thus, it added, “the percentages presented here are based on incidence reports from the total number of cases.”

While cases were few, violence was an additional burden for women who are migrant workers, the Mission said.

“From cases of migrant workers who experienced torture – wounded with fishing rods and kitchen implements, ordered to carry extremely heavy loads, and denied medical treatment – to the migrant who was raped and became pregnant due to the abuse, these are cases not usually heard in a developed city like Hong Kong,” it said.


In its report, the Mission said that of the 98 per cent who reported working long hours, 27 per cent were working more than 16 hours a day and 72 per cent working 11 to 16 hours.

These numbers were essentially unmoved from the previous year, which saw 98 per cent complaining of long hours, 27 per cent of whom were working for more than 16 hours and 71 per cent working 11-16 hours.

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This contrasts with the work conditions in 2019: While those complaining of long hours in 2019 were fewer at 96 per cent along with those working for 11-16 hours at 52 per cent, significantly more were being made to work for more than 16 hours at 44 per cent.

FDHs who were denied statutory holidays also increased last year, with complaints up to 45 per cent from 15 per cent in 2019, before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in Hong Kong.

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Source: Mission for Migrant Workers

Other FDH working conditions improved, however, as shown in fewer complaints during the pandemic compared to 2019:

  • Insufficient food: 29 per cent in 2019 to 14 per cent in 2021,
  • Physical abuse: 25 per cent in 2019 to 1 per cent in 2021
  • Under-payment: from 13 per cent in 2019 to 2 per cent in 2021
  • Unpaid Salary: 3 per cent in 2019 to 1 per cent in 2021
  • Documents taken by employer: 8 per cent in 2019 to zero in 2021
  •  Documents taken by employment agency: 8 per cent in 2019 to zero in 2021
  • Ill-treatment: 25 per cent in 2019 to 7 per cent in 2021
  • Rape/sexual harassment: 2 per cent in 2019 to zero in 2021

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