Left, a rooftop bed; right, a kitchen bed. Photos: MFMW

The Mission For Migrant Workers (MFMW), an NGO, has urged the Hong Kong government to take action to ensure that foreign domestic helpers have suitable accommodation, including their own room and ready access to a toilet.

In a new report that is based on a survey of more than 3,000 domestic workers, the group says one in 10 in Hong Kong are not provided with bedding, as stipulated in the standard working contract.

Norman Uy Carnay, the lead researcher on the report, said some 43% of those surveyed do not have their own room, while one in 50 sleep in areas such as a toilet, storage room, stock room or warehouse, basement, balcony or roof.

One domestic worker said she slept in a rooftop room that was only 1.2 meters high, while another’s bed was located in a kitchen cupboard above the microwave oven and fridge, he said. 

Of those with their own rooms, 33% said their rooms are also used by their employer for storage, hanging clothes, for ironing and washing, as a study or office, or as a room for pets. A third of employers enter the domestic workers’ “own room” without their consent.

Around 14% of participants did not have ready access to a toilet.

Carnay said many domestic workers have no choice but to accept poor accommodation as they don’t want to lose their jobs. They know the answer to their requests for better accommodation will be that “there is no space in the house,” he said.

The government should take measures to define “suitable accommodation” in the standard employment contract, MFMW recommends. It should also set up regulatory and monitoring mechanisms, the NGO adds.

The Labour Department had not replied to media inquiries about the report at time of publishing.

Norman Uy Carnay says many domestic workers accept poor accommodation as they don’t want to lose their jobs. Photo: MFMW

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