HK Domestic Workers Warned on Engaging in MLM Business

Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong who engage in multi-level marketing — physically or online — may have violated their conditions of stay.

The warning has been issued separately by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department and Philippine Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre.

“Multi-level marketing companies may be legal in the Philippines, but OFWs may be breaching their visa conditions if they engage in remunerative work (for pay) other than what is in their contracts,” Dela Torre said in a forum co-organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Bulacan Chapter and Global Alliance on September 3.

Multi-level is a strategy that some direct sales companies use to encourage their existing distributors to recruit new distributors by paying the existing distributors a percentage of their recruits’ sales; the recruits are known as a distributor’s “downline.”

Companies have targeted migrant workers in Hong Kong to sell products such as cosmetics and wellness merchandise to their friends. OFWs are often recruited to join networks through social media, with promise of generous returns if they manage to recruit new members.

The Immigration Department echoed the warning, in response to an inquiry by Filipino newspaper The SUN. It reiterated that foreign domestic helpers cannot do part-time work, including online marketing, because it is against the law.

“FDHs can only provide full-time domestic service,” an Immigration Department official said.

“They cannot take up any part-time work because they may breach their conditions of stay and, if they do, we will prosecute them.”

The warning against this practice has likewise been included at Philippine Overseas Labor Office post-arrival orientation seminars.

“Every PAOS is an occasion for me to warn them, not only about pyramiding and multilevel marketing, but about illegal work in general,” the Labor Attache said.

Unlike pyramid scheme which is illegal because it makes promises of huge payback without selling any product and members recoup their investment only if they add more members to the network, multi-level marketing, whose business model is based on a pyramid, could be legal because products are sold.

“Even then, engaging in online business while in Hong Kong may be considered breach of condition of stay,” Dela Torre said.


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