Mar 17, 2014

Upcoming Seminar (24/Mar): Taking responsibility for employment companies that overcharge Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong


Taking responsibility for employment companies that overcharge Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong

Dr Wayne Palmer

Visiting Scholar
Southeast Asia Research Centre
City University of Hong Kong

Date: 24 March 2014 (Monday)

Time: 4 pm – 5:30 pm

Venue: Y4-702, AC1, City University of Hong Kong


The issue of migrant workers in Hong Kong is again in the news following the recent event involving the mistreatment of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih. Last year the Hong Kong Labour Department conducted over 1,000 inspections of employment companies, responding to reports, for example, that they illegally overcharged foreign domestic workers for their services. These efforts resulted in the revocation of four business licences. In the same year, Amnesty International claimed that these companies systematically extracted illegal fees from tens of thousands of Indonesian domestic workers. Why is this practice so prolific among Indonesians? The answer lies in how the Indonesian consulate engages with the Hong Kong migration policy that requires foreign governments to endorse citizens for domestic helper visas. The Indonesian consulate uses this control to impose an extraterritorial accreditation system on Hong Kong employment companies, requiring those it approves to act as intermediaries for their citizens. This paper examines the administrative arrangement, arguing that it forms part an emerging state-society social contract concerning responsibility for labour migrants.

Short Bio

Wayne Palmer is a Visiting Scholar at the City University of Hong Kong Southeast Asia Research Centre. He contributed a book chapter on the role of discretion in handling human trafficking cases within an Indonesian embassy to Labour Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia: Critical Perspectives. Wayne's article on extraterritorial interventions that the Indonesian consulate makes through public-private partnerships with employment companies in Hong Kong was published in Political Geography. He submitted a doctoral thesis on the role of government officials' discretion in shaping and implementing Indonesia's state migration programme at the University of Sydney in 2013. Wayne is the Senior Client Advisor at the Christian Action – Domestic Helpers and Migrant Workers Programme.


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