Date
29 May 2017
Among the sleeping arrangements involve private rooms (from left) on top of the shower area, in the kitchen and in the balcony. Photo: Mission for Migrant Workers
Among the sleeping arrangements involve private rooms (from left) on top of the shower area, in the kitchen and in the balcony. Photo: Mission for Migrant Workers

Domestic workers forced to sleep in toilets, study finds

A concern group is urging a more clearly defined accommodation policy for domestic workers to prevent abuse.

This comes after a survey by Mission for Migrant Workers (MMW) showed that three in five domestic helpers don’t get adequate accommodation.

The survey interviewed more than 3,000 Filipino and Indonesian helpers last year and found widespread abuse.

Among the problems faced by the helpers were:

– Being made to sleep in areas such as toilets, storage rooms, basements, balconies, roofs, closets or sub-divided common spaces.

– Being forced to share space with pets, laundry and groceries

– General lack of privacy

MMW said the standard employment contract which provides for “suitable accommodation” for helpers gives “too much room for interpretation and misinterpretation”.

MMW program officer Norman Uy Carnay, lead researcher of the study, said the vagueness made it difficult for domestic helpers forced into unacceptable accommodation to seek legal remedies.

Carnay said Hong Kong’s policies on domestic helper accommodation don’t measure up to international standards.

He urged policymakers to look at countries such as Austria and Singapore which he said have clearer requirements for living conditions.

About 57 percent of those surveyed in the Hong Kong study had their own bedroom but a third said they were forced to share it with storage or laundry.

The premises were also used as office or study or a room for keeping pets.

About 70 percent had to share a bedroom with children, elderly people or co-workers while 21 percent slept in the living room.

“About 500 domestic helpers across Hong Kong are still sleeping in the toilet,” Carnay said.

Almost half did not have their own room key. About 67 percent said they do not have their own toilet and 14 percent of them do not have ready access to a toilet at all.

MMW urged the government to more clearly define “suitable accommodation”, monitor living arrangements and develop a complaint mechanism.

Also, it proposed live-out options for workers, saying the requirement that helpers live with their employers is open to abuse.

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AC/RA

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