Hong Kong, the previously British colony located in southeastern China, has a shockingly high percentage of domestic workers that are being forced into labor. The Justice Centre Hong Kong (JCHK) recently conducted a survey that found 17% are engaged in forced labor. That is more than one out of every six.
The JCHK defines forced labor: “As per the ILO guidelines, an individual is counted as being in forced labour if they are experiencing both involuntariness and menace of penalty in any one of these three dimensions of forced labour: unfree recruitment, work and life under duress and impossibility of leaving.” The organization goes on to note that recent events inspired the survey. One possible example: a worker in Masanjia, China managed to smuggle a letter explaining the labor situation into a product, which reached a consumer in Oregon (Jacobs).
The JCHK’s findings echo the Masanjia worker’s conditions: “Close to 72% were paid less than the minimum wage of $529.58 (HK$4,110) a month” (Zheng). Forced laborers are consistently underpaid and undervalued. They are not given proper working or living conditions. The JCHK continues with the fact that “nearly 40% do not have their own room and 35.2% share a room with a child or elder person” (Zheng). And this aspect is in addition to other abusive conditions felt by many. One Indonesian maid in China was raped by her employer’s brother-in-law, but she had nowhere to turn (Price).
These employees are forced. Their passports are often taken upon arrival, and debts are incurred during training. These people looking for opportunity to help their families are facing seriously dark times, restricted to long hours and little pay. The JCHK’s survey and findings will hopefully incite some change at the governmental level. Regulations can be set, but they must be truly enforced. If China wants to be more developed, it’ll have to get rid of these injustices by holding all citizens and companies accountable.