• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 2:26am

Hong Kong faces shortage of domestic helpers as Myanmese, Bangladeshi maids quit early

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 August, 2014, 4:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 9:50am

Maids from Bangladesh and Myanmar - brought to the city to bolster a shrinking workforce - are returning home just months after arriving, aggravating a shortage of domestic helpers.

In addition, agencies supplying maids report that it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire Filipino helpers, as they are choosing factory jobs in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, where they are paid more than the HK$4,010 a month they get in Hong Kong.

There are about 320,000 helpers in the city. About half are from the Philippines and most of the rest from Indonesia, with small numbers from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Employment agencies have said that previously, prospective employers were given a choice of several workers to hire, but now availability is so tight they are no longer given a choice.

Six months after the first group of 19 Myanmese arrived in Hong Kong, dozens more have come. But a sixth of them have already returned home, as they could not get used to life here.

The recruitment agency that brought the first group of helpers from Bangladesh says that one in five of them has gone home.

Law Yiu-keung, managing director of the Golden Mind Employment Agency, the only one in the city licensed to bring in helpers from Myanmar, said 90 had taken jobs in the city, but 14 had already gone home.

"Some of them left because they could not get used to the life here. Some did not tell us the reasons and only said they wanted to go home. Working here was probably not what they imagined before they came," Law said.

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He had planned to bring in 2,000 Myanmese helpers in the first year. However, only 90 have arrived because of the lengthy approval process each worker has to go through.

"It only takes a month for the Hong Kong government to get the relevant procedures done. It takes two to three months for the Myanmar side to get it done. It is taking a while," he said.

Law believes that the Myanmar's government is monitoring how his agency is doing before deciding whether to allow other agencies to bring in its citizens.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Centre, has met officials in Myanmar in an attempt to tap into this new source of helpers, but has encountered difficulties.

"Now I am reconsidering. You need to invest a lot, and the profit is low," she said.

She said the Indonesian government allowed recruitment agencies to charge helpers about HK$13,500 for expenses such as medical checks and training, but Myanmar allows the agencies to charge the helpers "very little".

Liu's agency was the first to be allowed to bring in Bangladeshi helpers. Since the first group arrived in May last year, about 300 more have come to Hong Kong.

"About 20 per cent have left because they could not get used to life here. They hadn't imagined that working here could be so much hard work. Some left after a year because they had made enough money," Liu said.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asia Migrants' Coordinating Body, recalled that he had the "shock of his life" when he first arrived as a helper 23 years ago because life here was very different from in the Philippines.

"I cried at night and I spent so much money calling home," he recalled.

"My advice is that they need to make friends with other domestic helpers. But it will be harder for those from Myanmar and Bangladesh because their community is small."


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This article is now closed to comments

Most car parks have a couple guys that wash cars 3 times a week for just $100-200 a month. If you can afford a car, you can afford paying that. That's the one thing which is almost impossible to do in your own parking lot, is to even use the water faucet to clean your own car.
For the even cheapest of the cheap, I've seen families bring the domestic helper out to public washrooms like Science Park and the Waterfront Park in Tai Po and get buckets of water from the toilet to wash their car. God, how cheap can you get...
Fact that these workers will never qualify for HK PR is also criminal, yet a Mainland woman who gives birth in HK their child automatically qualifies. How bent is HK?
The biggest problem here lies within how HK's government, the employers and people discriminate against these domestic helpers................. Firstly, these domestic helpers are every bit as entitled to HK's minimum wage, but the government thinks otherwise. The government has no set regulations to protect the rights of these domestic helpers and if it wasn't for the recent case of the abusive employer, the government would have been too ignorant and passive to even step in to do something about it...........Come on HK government officials!.........treat these domestic helpers with equal rights and they might "consider" staying around HK.
Secondly, HK employers are some of the most abusive people ever.............they make the domestic helpers work 16 hours a day and treat them like "slaves". Wake up HK employers!!.....These domestic helpers should be treated in the same way as any company would treat their staff.........Keep treating them like slaves and then perhaps consider cleaning your toilets and your home yourself.
It's about time the couple hundred thousand domestic workers in HK should see this (if they haven't already) and boycott coming to work here in HK...........There's got to be other countries where they can get a bit more respect.
You are quite wrong to suggest that the government has done what it can. There is much the HKSAR government could do:
1. Ensure that the Labour Dept checks that the accommodation promised in the contract is provided to helpers.
2. Include domestic helpers in the upcoming legislation on maximum working hours
3. Change the legislation that prevents helpers who are taking an employer to court/tribunal from getting another job
4. Ensure the Labour Dept investigates employment agencies to stop illegal fees being charged
5. Enact laws that prevent money lenders exploiting helpers
6. Stop denying that employer abuse of helpers is not a serious problem in Hong Kong
And that's just some suggestions to start with ….
I am personally acquainted with a billionaire couple who for decades have never renewed their maids' contracts, so when they take their annual exotic cruise or holiday (Alaska, Antarctica, Kenya, etc.), they can save a few thousand by temporarily not having one. Ugh.
Who will I be able to bully and take out my racist spite on?
Don't forget that people working for the Labour Department have their own maids and do you think they are any better than the mainstream ?
They would shoot their own foot if they start to check the conditions helpers live in.
I agree absolutely with your first sentence, but what's wrong with having them wash the car? As long as it's not daily at 2am in the morning what's the big deal?
"Foreign domestic workers make up around 3 per cent of the Hong Kong population." Ummm...
Population of Hong Kong 7,190,000 (wikipedia)
FDH: 320,000 (the next line in the header)
= 4.45%
Because washing cars its not really a domestic chore.
We have professional car washers in Hong Kong and if you force your maid to wash your car, you are taking work away from local people.
If you can afford a car and also a helper at home, do the decent thing and pay a car cleaner. Its also a 'face" issue. A domestic helper should not be seen being brought down to the level of street cleaners and and/or car washers.



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