• Mon
  • Apr 21, 2014
  • Updated: 10:58am
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih
NewsHong Kong

Would-be helpers from Bangladesh scared off by abuse fears

Bangladeshi consul confirms just 270 maids from his country have taken up jobs in city, while a fifth of those have already gone home

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 5:54am

Just a fraction of the 5,000 Bangladeshi maids who had been expected to take jobs in Hong Kong under a deal struck last year have arrived - with many put off by reports of mistreatment and abuse.

One in five of the 270 Bangladeshis who had taken jobs in the city since May were back home already, the country's top diplomat in Hong Kong revealed.

And such is the concern about abuse that Dhaka last year sent inspectors to make checks.

The development again puts the spotlight on working conditions for Hong Kong maids in the wake of a recent abuse case.

It also casts doubt on the ability of Bangladesh to fill the hole left by a shortage of Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers, who account for 98 per cent of Hong Kong's maids.

Last week an employer was arrested accused of hitting and pulling the hair of her Bangladeshi helper. Also last week, the former employer of Indonesian Erwiana Sulistyaningsih appeared in court charged with abusing her and two other maids.

When the two governments agreed in April to allow Bangladeshi helpers in Hong Kong, it was hailed as a way to help the impoverished South Asian country and fulfil the needs of Hong Kong families.

Employment agencies expected 5,000 Bangladeshis to arrive in the first year. But Bangladeshi Consul General Mohammad Sarwar Mahmood said some 20 per cent of recruits had returned home.

"Some have left voluntarily or - on a case-by-case basis - their contract has been terminated," he said. But, he added, he was generally "happy" with the treatment of Bangladeshi maids.

"People are very much conscious [of the abuse risk] … and they are very much aware, which means not all people are interested [in being a maid]," the consul said. "We are also trying to go slow ... to ensure our helpers' rights are duly protected, and we want to monitor their welfare."

A delegation from Bangladesh's manpower ministry found mistreatment of its citizens in Hong Kong, according to the Dhaka Tribune. It cited the case of a maid left unable to work after being scalded with hot water by her employer - a case now under police investigation.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Centre, the biggest agency dealing with Bangladeshi maids, said the helpers found work very hard because of "too much pressure" from employers.

"They have already proved to be a failure because families in Hong Kong have difficulties in getting used to Bangladeshi people for many reasons," said Joseph Law, chairman of the Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association. He cited culture and education as factors.

Cheung Kit-man, chairman of the Employment Agencies Association, expects employees from Myanmar to fill the gap.

"Employers prefer Myanmar maids because 80 per cent of the population is Buddhist and they can speak a little bit of English, compared with Bangladesh, where most are Muslim," he said.


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lets first try to respect our maids and treat them as part of the family. they are here to make a living and to provide adequate support for their families back home. dat is not easy.
hk yan should be more sensible and sensitive. there will always be a few bad apples here and there and vice versa of some maids taking advantage. this is life....
if we find them incompetence, then we should fire them or replace them but to resort to violence is wrong and should be condemn.
to those dat comes here to hk to work, do consider it a blessing..afterall, if you are working for example in Saudi Arabia, chances of violence is much higher albeit higher pay or if you work in Malaysia, you are gonna be tired daily simple because our home is much bigger and much work to do and less pay.
more importantly, hk yan are known for their generosity and kindness and to those dat comes to work here, do appreciate all and do your best.
Abuses happen in any country and it they don't come it's their loss. If they are lucky to be hired by a rich household they get to live in a bigger quarter just for starters plus better food, icing on the cake. OK, bad example, but just trying to make a point.
To be able to work as domestic helpers in HK is a privilege. As the saying goes, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. As a fact there are many University degree holders from the Philippines who would dream of coming here to work as a maid than to earn a mediocre living at home as a white collar.
I feel sad when hear that the helpers have suffered abuse.
To see it in another point, I think more people to come/stay in Hong Kong, then Hong Kong will become messy. Most of them want to get many many welfare, benefits and HKID here.
I shall assist you to make another point. Many would want to marry a gwei_lo so they could gain residency to break away from poverty and low standard of living back home.
SCMP editors are all idiots. They try to censor the word gwei-lo from my text. For their information, there was a high profile court case many years ago that a Caucasian man who wanted to sue for discrimination for being called gwei_lo and lost. Ironic is the fact that the judge, his majesty himself was a Caucasian.
A lot of employer and home helper conflicts arises from the employers themselves - they lack the ability to manage their emotions, their frustrations and vented out to somebody who won't hit back. Torture is not acceptable, and for sane employers, they should sit back and consider if their demands on the home helper is at all reasonable....
We are not as bad as some of the news potrays us to be. There will always be some bad apples everywhere (they even had to kick out Satan from heaven - if I heard correctly). Also from TVB news yesterday, the Immigration Chief mentioned that many maids doctored their abuse claims to extend their stay or jump jobs. So we need to have a balance. Maybe better legislations/penalties is required to regulate the trade. But even so I'm afraid, they'll still be abuse. That's the ugly side of human nature.
Yellow_lynx_ cat makes a good point about HK being fast paced with high expectations. We should also be careful to our "adjust" our expectations as we change environments / by all means make outrageous demands of those people at work that have a good education and are being very well paid if you want to but for those that work in our homes and look after our children lets give them some latitude and make sure we show them some respect for the important work they do.
I think this problem is more psychological and boils down to ego, respect (or disrespect) and (lack of) communication skills...I guess private tutors never taught that.
An ego itself bares no consequence to violence but add in disrespect of others, there are no boundaries of what can or cannot be done behind closed doors. Lacking communication skills to teach the maid will just lead to frustration, quarreling and sometimes violence.
We've all heard of maid jokes, but some are true:
Maid: There was no red grouper at the market today, sir.
Employer: So what are we have for dinner?
Maid: ...(silence)
Hong Kong is a society of ultra fast pace and high pressure. Employers of home helpers themselves are under pressure from their bosses at workplaces, so they are used to be pushed by impatient people, and they probably lack the patience. Bangladesh is a relatively slow paced third world country and many have no idea of how fast Hong Kong employers want things done. If you have day of 8 hours and the task requires less than 2 hours, even though there is ample time the employers cannot tolerate the sight of slow pace. This kind of gap in cultural background is not going to be easy to resolve.



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