Indentured Servitude, Hong Kong-Style

Domestic workers’ wages flow to employment agencies and lenders
Illustration by Daniel Zender

Sitting on a picnic blanket in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park with fellow Indonesian domestic workers on a Sunday in October, 34-year-old Arida is holding back tears. Moneylenders have demanded she turn over almost all her HK$3,740 ($483) monthly salary to pay debts totaling more than $5,000 that she incurred finding a job, she says. When she stopped paying in July after labor advocates told her that fees she had been charged are illegal in Hong Kong, debt collectors harassed her and the family that employs her as a live-in helper. “This loan will be impossible to repay,” Arida says, giving only her first name for fear of losing her job. “I fear this will never go away.”

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