Domestic Workers Justice Initiative

Working with Institutional Investors to Keep Their Supply Chains Trafficking-Free

The Problem

More than 75% of the 600,000 migrant domestic workers living in Hong Kong and Singapore are charged illegal recruitment fees by employment agencies. These illegal fees and resulting vulnerability to debt-based coercion are one of the primary reasons the US State Department ranks the trafficking situation in Hong Kong among the worst in the developed world in its 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report. Many rights groups feel the situation in Singapore is equally bad.

Expatriate executives at US investment firms are among the largest employers of these workers (as live-in maids, nannies or helpers) with up to 80% hiring help compared to about 15% of all households in these countries. Therefore, by failing to take precautions, these firms have put their expatriate executives at high risk of being party to a transaction that includes a trafficking-related felony when they hire help.

Furthermore, by bringing large numbers of executives into Hong Kong and Singapore, the firms create the underlying conditions that make this type of offense nearly inevitable. In doing so, they put their institutional clients at risk of violating their supply chain anti-trafficking pledges.

It is the goal of this campaign to work with institutional investors to require that private equity firms remediate their link to these crimes.

The Solution

Domestic Workers Justice Initiative proposes a program in which the domestic worker is interviewed by an expert, who determines if any illegal fees were paid, and who serves as her contact in cases of contract violations. This solution is modeled on a US State Department program covering domestic workers brought into the US by foreign diplomats. It has proven highly effective at deterring abuse at little financial cost and with minimal intrusion into anyone’s personal life.

The Campaign

The Domestic Workers Justice Initiative Campaign proposes a modified version of the State Department’s 3P Program to discourage the criminal abuse of domestic workers brought into the US by foreign diplomats.

Prevention: The worker meets privately with the host country expert to understand her rights and is given the expert’s contact information in case of abuse. The diplomat employer is given training on the appropriate treatment of domestic workers.

Protection: The expert provides alternative dispute resolution mechanisms when problems arise and may encourage compensation to the worker if appropriate.

Prosecution: The expert refers allegations of exploitation to law enforcement for investigation. Note: DWJI prefers a conciliatory approach and believes its C.A.R.E. proposal is a sufficient deterrent to abuse in this context.

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