16 March 2020
Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB)
Health and labour rights of migrant domestic workers, “at risk” with the COVID-19 outbreak
HK government should ensure comprehensive protection for all
The COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent actions by the Hong Kong government have put migrant domestic workers “at risk” due to lack of provision or access to protection, overwork and stress, and discriminatory policies including the mandatory live-in requirement.
(See attached Results of Online Survey on the Situation of Migrant Domestic Workers during COVID-19 outbreak)
Lack of provision and access to masks and sanitisers by a significant number of MDWs means many are left unprotected from the virus. As shown by the findings of the survey, over half of MDWs are vulnerable to COVID-19 due to total absence or very limited access to personal protective equipment that can minimize the risk of infection.
Financial assistance to help cope with additional expenses is also denied to MDWs. The announced cash assistance that can help Hong Kong residents excludes MDWs who have to continue to get from their meagre salary the extra expenses for masks, alcohol, sanitizers, and even supplements that can boost a person’s immune system.
The changes in the working and living condition of MDWs are also notable. The prevalence of stress among MDWs due to overworking, the added financial burden, lack of rest and sleep and the prolonged isolation from our community and family actually makes MDWs more vulnerable to various ailments. Discriminatory and exclusionary government policies such as the “mandatory live-in arrangements” for MDWs coupled with the social distancing policy make the situation all the more unbearable physically and mentally for the sector.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, labour rights violations are prevalent. The most common forms are the deprivation of weekly statutory rest day, the over-exposure to harmful chemical cleaning agents and the lack of access to redress and grievance mechanisms.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, policies and preventive actions by the Hong Kong government exclude household carers who are members of hundreds of thousands of households and a significant community in Hong Kong. The very nature of our work– working where we live – already makes us share the risk as the rest of the Hong Kong households.
In this time of the COVID-19, the vulnerability of MDWs require that protection of their health and rights be one of the major concerns. However, instead of concrete actions to help protect MDW as part of the all households, the government’s policies seem to be more directed on how to prevent MDWs to become vectors of the virus.
The current situation further exposes and magnifies the problems of MDWs arising from government policies especially in terms of wages, working hours, accommodation and other labour rights.
In the absence of a comprehensive policy to address the socio-economic, political, public health and cultural impacts of the COVID-19, the Hong Kong government practically passed the responsibility to private households and individuals to manage the virus risks. If public policies are made, they exclude migrant domestic workers that further render us invisible and vulnerable.
Ironically, if MDWs are left vulnerable, then households are also vulnerable. The government must embrace the belief that Hong Kong’s survival depends on the survival of all. No one should be left unprotected and uncared for.
Thus, we put forward the following demands to the HKSAR government to:
1. Ensure a better and more comprehensive social, economic and public health policy to address the COVID-19 and include MDWs in national safety preventive and protection programs. The government should pro-actively support Hong Kong households and include MDWs and others in the care sector.
2. Include migrant domestic workers in the proposed financial assistance scheme by the HKSAR government to cope with the impacts of COVID-19.
3. Conduct widespread information to households employing MDWs on their responsibilities to include them in the adequate provision of protective materials.
4. Ensure that MDWs have access and correct information on COVID-19 especially those involving MDWs.
5. Curb overpricing and ensure adequate supply of affordable protective materials for all.
6. Withdraw the discriminatory advisory of the Labour Department “suggesting” MDWs to stay in their workplace during rest days
7. Abolish discriminatory restrictions like the “Two- Week Rule” and make the “Live-In Policy” optional to lessen the vulnerability of MDWs and improve our living and working condition.
Let us all FIGHT C.O.V.I.D.! – Coronavirus | Overwork | Vulnerability | Inequality | Discrimination
讓我們一起對抗冠狀病毒｜超時工作｜易受傷害度 | 不平等 | 歧視
Results of Online Survey on the Situation of Migrant Domestic Workers during COVID-19 outbreak
The survey was conducted online by the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) with the support of the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) from March 8-10, 2020
是次研究是由亞洲移住人士聯盟(AMCB)主力在網上進行，由外勞事務中心 (MFMW) 及亞太外勞事工中心(APMM)協力，於2020年3月8-10日之間進行。
1. There were 1,127 domestic workers who answered the survey. 54% are Filipinos and 44% are Indonesians, 0.18% are Thai and 0.09% are Sri Lankan.
Insufficient protection from the virus
2. Between 11-14% of respondents reported that they do not receive masks or sanitizers from their employers. In absolute numbers, there are around 43,000 -55,000 migrant domestic workers who are currently not receiving enough protective materials from their employers.
3. For every 10 workers who were given masks, only 4 of them were given more than one mask per day for work. For the others:
• 2 of them were not given masks every day (an additional 81,300 MDWs)
• 4 were given only one mask per day (an additional 125,383 MDWs)
This practically increases the number on top of those not given mask at all. We can estimate with these findings that another 206,000 migrant domestic workers are at risk because of less protection given them.
4. Also, whether they did receive masks from employers or not, migrant domestic workers still observe a disparity in sharing of protection in the household:
a) There was still 1 out of every 4 (almost 25%) even for those who were given masks that felt they got less masks compared to other members of the household.
b) For those who did not receive masks, a whopping 78% declared that other members of the household did get masks for themselves.
c) This is similar declaration for those who did not have access or share of alcohol or sanitizers at employer’s home. 74% of them said that members of the household have alcohol and sanitizers while they were not provided for.
a) 有四分一（幾乎25%) 的移工認為即使有獲發口罩，與僱主家中其他成員相比，所獲分發數量較少；
Insufficient protection from stress because of overworking, financial burden, lack of rest and sleep and prolonged isolation from community and family.
5. Overall, more than 1/3 of domestic workers bought their own masks and alcohol/sanitizers in the past month. 8 out of every 10 of those who did not get masks and/or alcohol/sanitizers at employer’s home, bought their own. More than 85% believe that prices for these products are expensive even though they can find them generally available in the market.
6. More than half of the respondents claimed that they worked more in the past month than before that.
a) 80% reported more cleaning
b) 50% reported more cooking
c) 30% reported more time for child caring
d) 15% reported more tasks of going out to buy products
7. More than 1/3 of respondents (around 138,000) reported that they were asked to clean at least twice with almost half of them asked to clean more than twice per day. Two out of every ten (around 80,000) are not provided protective equipment like gloves or masks when handling harmful cleaning agents/chemicals (e.g. bleach, Dettol, etc.)
7. 多於三分一受訪者(推算數字為138,000人) 指出她們被要求清潔家居至少一天兩次；當中幾乎一半人指出她們被僱主要求每天清潔家居超過兩次。同時，每十名中有兩名(推算數字為80,000人) 在進行須使用有害清潔劑或化學物品時(例如漂白水、滴露等)，沒有獲僱主提供保護物資，例如手套或口罩。
8. One out of every 4 (25%) declared they slept less compared to the month before.
Insufficient protection from discrimination and labour rights violations
9. Nearly half (40%) of MDWs did not go out during the past month due to the COVID-19
10. Almost 20% or one out of every 5 (78,000) were not given their weekly rest day or got less than what they should get this past month.
a) Almost half of them were not given any rest day at all for the past month. This means around 40,000 migrant domestic workers were not allowed to enjoy a rest day within 30 days of working inside their employer’s house just in the past month.
b) An additional 21,000 only got one rest day in one month.
c) More than 17,000 got only 2 or 3 rest days a month
10. 幾乎有20%或每五名移工中有一人（推算數字為78,000人) 在過去的一個月中，未能獲得每周一天的休息日，或獲得少於一個月中應得的休息時間。
11. For those who were given their weekly rest day, 23% did not go outside their employer’s house in the past month. 25% of those who did not go out still did some work inside the house even during their rest day. For those who were allowed to go outside for their rest day and did so in the past month, 25% were demanded by their employer to come back home earlier than usual.
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