16. Yesterday (June 16) was International Domestic Workers’ Day. Unfortunately, domestic workers remain so of the most exploited, abused workers in the world. In HK alone, FDWs (foreign domestic workers) suffer the following conditions:
- By law, they must live with their employer but they are not required to have their own room, so most share a room with a family member (usually a child).
- One day off per week…when did a two day weekend become a luxury?
- Underpayment or nonpayment of wages (there is a minimum wage here for FDWs, but about 10% of employers do not pay it)
- Illegal recruitment and agencies fees. Most women from the Philippines will pay at least 100,000 Pesos (2500 USD) in ILLEGAL fees. The government made these fees illegal in 2007 but refuses to prosecute agencies who charge them.
- No right of abode. This means that no matter how long a FDW has worked here, she will never have citizenship or permanent residency
Around the world (Malaysia, Singapore, the Gulf), FDW face the following circumstances (in addition to those listed above):
- No minimum wage, so their salary is completely dependent on their employer.
- No right to organize or form institutions
- No weekly day off. Maybe a monthly day off in some places.
- Confiscation of passports
- My personal “favorite” (as it illustrates the intersection between state control over women’s bodies and racist discrimination): FDWs in Singapore cannot get pregnant, and they must have a physical every six months proving that they are not pregnant.