A group of 11 domestic workers from Bangladesh will arrive in Hong Kong today, marking the beginning of official importation of maids from the country.
All women in their 20s, they completed training in their home country a month ago and have been hired by local families.
Maid agencies here expect some of Bangladesh's 150 million population to alleviate Hong Kong's domestic helper shortage.
"The training, which lasts three months and is supervised by the country's labour ministry, finished in April. The women learned Cantonese, Chinese cooking, cleaning skills and personal hygiene," said Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of the Technic Employment Service Centre.
Cultural differences exist between the city and the Muslim country, but the workers are advised to adapt to local tastes.
"They used to have very long hair that touched their waists, but they cut it before the trip," Liu said. "And instead of wearing the hijab, they will stick to T-shirts and jeans. They won't eat pork, but can cook it for employers."
Another 75 Bangladeshi workers will arrive over the next three months, followed by 150 to 200 every month after that.
Some locals who hired the Bangladeshi maids had bad experiences with Filipino or Indonesian maids, Liu said. With fewer of their compatriots in Hong Kong, the maids would likely be more focused on their work, she said.
Liu said her agency had hired a Bangladeshi translator whom employers could call in the case of communication problems.
And agency middleman fees for Bangladeshi workers are lower: HK$3,980 compared with HK$6,980 for Filipinos and HK$7,980 for Indonesians.
Sunlight Employment Agency regional manager Samantha Chan Chui-chu expects her firm's first batch of Bangladeshi workers to arrive before end of the year. She expects demand to be high because of the acute labour supply shortage.
According to government statistics, there are currently only 71 Bangladeshi helpers in the city.