Thousands of Macau households are keen to hire the first batch of domestic helpers from the mainland, but the scheme has been delayed and it is still unclear when it will start.
More than 4,000 families have registered their interest with maid agencies grouped under the Macau Oversea Worker Employment Agency Association, said its president, Ao Ieong Kuong-kao.
"Adding the inquiries from maid agencies that are not our members, the number could be up to 6,000 households, but it will vary according to the final regulations set out for importing domestic helpers," he said.
He said that under the government's proposal, candidates would have to apply through the mainland offices of an association of Macau employment agencies, and would be granted a permit after getting a job in a Macau household.
But he said the details were not finalised and that the association did not know when the scheme would commence.
Macau's Secretary for Economics and Finance Francis Tam Pak-yuen said last year that Macau aimed to bring in the first batch of 300 helpers in the first quarter of this year.
About 200 would be from Guangdong province and 100 from Fujian . Many Macau families said they preferred mainland maids to foreign domestic helpers because of their similar language and culture.
But more than half a year later, the discussion is still going on. In a reply to the South China Morning Post, the Macau Human Resources Office said the mainland's Ministry of Commerce was still considering the implementation of the policy but had neither given further details nor said when it would be carried out.
Chen Yuehuan, vice-president of the Household Management Service Association in Zhuhai , also said the association had no idea when the scheme would be implemented, despite mainland helpers' interest in the new job opportunities.
"Many domestic helpers on the mainland are interested in working in Macau. The only concern is the wage," she said.
Deng Fang, a Guangxi woman who has been working as a domestic helper in Zhuhai for about 10 years, said she would be happy to work in Macau if she were offered 4,000 yuan (HK$5,018) a month. She was earning 3,000 yuan a month in Zhuhai.
"Wages and personal security are my only considerations," said the 45-year-old woman. "After all, I work away from my hometown just to make more money."
But it remains uncertain whether mainland helpers who are currently working in Guangdong can apply for work in Macau, despite the fact that most domestic maids in Guangdong are from other provinces.