Despite the mandate that bans employment agencies from collecting placement fees in the Philippines, many Filipino domestic workers continue to pay more than P50,000 before they could start their job in Hong Kong.
According to a study entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 84% of Filipino maids who were interviewed paid an average of P52,644 to land a job in Hong Kong.
“Our research clearly demonstrates that significant numbers of agencies are systematically charging Filipino migrant workers fees well in excess of he legal maximum,” said Shiella Estrada, chair of the Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong.
In lieu of the outlawed collection of placement fees, agencies in the Philippines often force experienced domestic workers to undergo unnecessary training to maximize their profits.
“Many migrant domestic workers have little choice but to pay these exorbitant fees and are heavily indebted, making it difficult to leave exploitative and abusive employers,” a PLU statement said, adding that on average, agencies in Hong Kong collect HK$11,321 (P74,432) or more than 25 times the legal limit. According to Hong Kong labor laws, fees collected by agencies should not exceed 10% of the helper’s first month salary.
“The charging of illegal fees by Hong Kong agencies leaves Filipino migrant domestic workers with huge debts. This in turn makes it even more difficult for them to challenge exploitative practices that they frequently experience,” said Phobsuk Gasing, chair of the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union.
“Although our research focused on Filipino domestic workers, other nationals experience similar, even worse, treatment,” Gasing added.
The group said both the Philippines and Hong Kong governments failed to prosecute agencies that collect illegal fees. It cited statistics from Hong Kong’s Labor Department that between 2014 and 2015, the government only had 10 convictions for overcharging or unlicensed operation with fines rangings from HK$1,500 to HK$45,000.
“These illegal practices have been going on for far too long. The Philippine and Hong Kong governments are fully aware but so far have lacked the political will to act. They must now take concerted action to stop these illegal and unethical activities,” Gasing said.