Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong tell their stories

Almost 4 million Indonesians have officially migrated abroad for work since 2006. The majority of them are women who take on domestic work in private homes. Poverty and unemployment compel them to seek opportunities abroad, including Hong Kong. Yet for many Indonesian migrant domestic workers, hopes for a better life are crushed by a migration process that is fraught with duplicity and abuse from the moment they enter it.


“I was born into a very poor family. One day, a broker told me there was work in Hong Kong.

When I reached the training centre. I gave her my Indonesian ID and family certificate which she then passed on to the recruitment agency. I still haven’t got them back.

The centre was surrounded by high fences and all the women had their hair cut short. ‘If you decide to leave, then you have to pay us 27 million rupiah,’ they said.When I got to Hong Kong, I had problems with my first employer and was terminated in five months. At my placement agency they told me, ‘You can’t go back to Indonesia because you still owe us two months’ deductions.’ I found another employer. There the grandfather kept asking, ‘Do you want to have sex with me?’ I just cried and cried.”


“A broker told me there were plenty of opportunities in Hong Kong and that my time at the training centre would be brief but i was there for seven months.

The conditions were terrible – the centre was overcrowded and we slept on mattresses on the floor. There were only six bathrooms for 200 people, so three to four of us would have to shower together. The staff abused us all the time, calling us names and telling us we were bad workers.

Once I started work in Hong Kong, my wages were deducted for the first seven months. I had to pay HK$ 3,000 (US$390) each month. My employer paid this directly to the agency. That left me with only HK$580 (US$75) which isn’t very much to live on. I only had two days free per month.

My employer confiscated my passport to stop me running away.I am back in Indonesia now and don’t want to return to Hong Kong.”


“A broker told me an employer in Hong Kong needed domestic workers urgently. The broker asked for my high school diploma, family certificate and Indonesian ID card. To this day, I have not got them back. I stayed in Hong Kong for three months. I was never given a day off. I wasn’t paid either.

My employer told me I couldn’t speak to anyone and I always ate after the family. They gave me whatever was left over from their dinner. Sometimes that wasn’t enough. One night, at midnight, my employer told me to wash her daughter’s socks right away. I was exhausted but I did it. But my employer said they weren’t clean enough and dumped the dirty cold water on my head. She said I was stupid and lazy.

[Later] someone from the agency… told me my employer had terminated my contract. My employer refused to give me my salary and compensation for terminating my contract! The agency did not help me find a new job and just told me to go back to Indonesia. I am happy to be back in Indonesia where I have peace of mind.”


“My first job in Hong Kong was looking after an elderly lady who was very sick. It didn’t last long because she died. My employer gave me my severance pay equal to one month’s wages plus my last month’s salary. But the agency took this money from me.

I wanted to change agency but they wouldn’t let me and kept my passport. I lodged a complaint with the police. They came to the hostel and forced the agency to return my passport.

At the last minute another agency offered me a job. Things were not good with my new employer. After one month, I broke the contract. My next employer was good. I was able to join the Muslim Women’s Communication Forum whose mission is to help migrant domestic workers. I felt empowered and decided to study. at St. Mary’s University where I graduated from the Bachelor of Entrepreneur Management Programme.”