Aileen Asks... Equal Opportunities Commission

By Aileen_PYP on 9th Apr 2022


Pangyao co-founder Aileen Alonzo-Hayward helps to answer readers’ questions about living and working in Hong Kong. In this issue, Aileen speaks to Devi Novianti, Equal Opportunities Officer at the Equal Opportunities Commission


Readers Question: Can employers hire domestic workers based on race?


ISSUES OF RACE in Hong Kong are governed by the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO), an anti-discrimination ordinance which prohibits discrimination, harassment, and vilification on

the ground of a person’s race in prescribed areas of activities, including employment, education, provision of goods, services and/or facilities, etc.


Under the RDO, employers of foreign migrant domestic workers (MDWs) are allowed to make hiring decisions based on their race. 


Racial harassment is any unwelcome conduct towards another person on the grounds of his or her race. Once hired, the RDO prohibits the employer and other household members (including family members and other MDWs) from engaging in unwelcome conduct on the grounds of a MDW’s race. Such examples may include (but are not limited to): 

  • an oral or a written statement containing 
  • derogatory remarks or insults;
  • racial jokes, banter, ridicule or taunts;
  • using offensive tone when communicating with people on the grounds that they 
  • belong to certain racial groups;
  • selectively imposing excessive workload on people of certain racial groups;
  • name calling; or
  • unnecessarily picking on individuals from particular racial groups


Such provisions in the RDO are applicable from the moment the employment contract takes

effect, which may be the point at which the MDW enters Hong Kong (in cases where the MDW has to wait for their employment visa outside of Hong Kong), or when the approval to

work is issued by the Immigration Department (in cases where the MDW is not required to

leave Hong Kong while awaiting visa approval from the Director of Immigration). 


It is worth noting that the RDO applies even when a MDW has to perform their duties

outside Hong Kong for a short period of time, such as when the employer takes them along to work during an overseas holiday.


The RDO gives the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) the function of eliminating

such discrimination, harassment and vilification on the basis of race, as well as promoting

equality and harmony amongst people of different races.


By law, racial harassment cases may be considered regardless of whether the original intention was to harass. If the MDW feels offended or insulted by a certain act on the grounds of race, in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated that the MDW would be offended, humiliated or intimidated, the act is considered racial harassment.


In conclusion, while employers may choose the race of their MDWs before hiring, once the employment contract is signed, the RDO protects MDWs during the application process and employment.