• Thu
  • Oct 16, 2014
  • Updated: 4:06am
LABOUR

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.

DON'T MISS: Help the helpers: Hong Kong gets ethical employment agency to stamp out 'modern-day slavery'

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."

Share

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

33

This article is now closed to comments

sterobertshk
Oh no the city is doomed. So many dirty cars.
clsaclsa
They might be better off NOT getting a minimum wage, because they'd probably get paid less after the employers subtract the room and board from it (rent in HK is not trivial)... either that or force maids to band together to share disgusting partitioned apartments that doubles as a whorehouse (not kidding.. I am living as a neighbour to one of these).
What's more constructive is to push for max. working hours per day.
ejmciii
Who would not want to wipe the bottoms, clean the toilets, carry the burdens of the master race? They get minimum wage? What more do they want. There must be thousands in China who want to come here and clean our toilets and take care of momma's colostomy bag, They should be happy to serve Chinese. Sorry, I just laughed enough to soil myself.
daily
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.
Yknot
Sadly, from what I have heard, in Asia and the Middle East, there probably aren't countries where helpers get more respect. However, Canada is a favored destination for helpers for just this reason and for the fact that they are paid the minimum wage (like any other worker) and have fixed hours (like any other worker). Unfortunately, for many, it lacks Hong Kong's proximity to the Philippines and Indonesia and the social network that exists in HK.
daily
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.
538f1551-3fac-488b-b720-35060a320969
@Yknot,
I agree with you that HK govt should step up effort to protect domestic helpers. And at the same time, I think HK govt also needs to find a way to protect employers from being cheated.
-
Can police in the Philipines help prosecute those helpers that “borrow” tens of thousands of dollar from employers then disappeared ? Get them return the money. If possible, help me find her, the one that “borrowed” from me, at that time,my boss was her employer, due to some reason I agreed to lend her a small amount, since then, no one has ever seen her again in HK.
-
Now I know, when a Filipino says “borrow”, it could have a different meaning, not the meaning that British have taught us.
Yknot
There certainly many good employers in HK, some of whom go far beyond what could be expected of an employer. As in your case, some of these get ripped off by helpers. In fact, it is not only employers who lose money, but other helpers who have lent money to a 'friend' who subsequently disappears.
warren_siu
The average Hong Konger is getting more poor, that is why the HK government can't raise the minimum wage for helpers. It was fashionable in the 80s when HK was rich and everyone wanted a helper or 2, now its going to be a transition process as less HK people will be able to afford a helper. Rising inflation and high property prices mean more people living in smaller spaces, there's less physical space to house a helper now a days. Since the handover things have gone downhill for HK, I don't see the lives of average HK'er getting better.
swami.vas
Problems are far too many a new arrival has to face in a strange place and Hong Kong is no exception. Domestic helpers (DH) from the two most popular countries providing them are better off as most are better equipped including some overseas experience. Those from other likely places have to spend a lot on travel and other related pre-employment expenses. On top of that they step on a vibrant city and face many problems notably language and long working hours. In such circumstances the scenario narrated in the report especially the early return of some new helpers should not come as a surprise at all! Above all, the economies of some traditional DH supplying countries are on rapid rise lately and it could result in a fall in flow of overseas job seekers including DHs from those places. The DH market indeed swings according to frequently changing demand and supply forces like any market place and the major players notably the new entrants have to inevitably encounter them in order to survive! And, there is very little the government of a place with several constraints can do and apparently the HKSAR government has already done what it can to improve and make things better for both the employer and employees in the DH market!
Yknot
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 ….
reggiedog
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.
sunnymedina
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?
whoaman
Bent, and getting worse all the time.
reggiedog
They are dark, and not like us.
caractacus
Who will I be able to bully and take out my racist spite on?
superdx
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...
sipsip1238
So now people need to learn how to cook, wash and iron, newsflash, that was something that I've been doing for myself and mum since 7, it's called looking after yourself and the people around you.
53e61a66-85cc-4b83-9b4b-4c610a320968
The vast majority of people in the rest of the developed world are capable of preparing their own food, cleaning their own house and raising their own children. Why aren't Hongkongers? It might be acceptable if these domestic helpers were treated like human beings. Yet all I see walking about the city is instance after instance of them being treated like animals. It's akin to modern day slavery and it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world fully wakes up to what's going on here. Absolutely disgraceful.
whatever
"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%
538f1551-3fac-488b-b720-35060a320969
For some families, it is just a habit to have a domestic helper in the house.Time to switch to local part time helper. Around HK$60 per hour, if work 9 hours per week, it's a total HK$2,160 per month, no other trouble involved, most of them are very professional. No need to take a foreign stranger into the house.
michaelhctam@gmail.com
Wash your own damn dishes people. Come on.
mdap
There has to be some new rules and regulations, if an apartment in under a certain size and has no separate maids room, then they should not be allowed to employ a FDH. I am tired of helpers being asked to sleep on kitchen floors, or in one case that I saw - the 'maids room' was the bottom of a double cupboard with the pathetic owner's wide arrange of winter ski clothes hung above her! The apartment has no maids quarters and she is asked to shower at the local squash centre facilities! There needs to be far more stringent requirements for hiring maids - simply being too lazy to clean your own toilet is not enough!
Yknot
Yep, the Labour Dept does no checks whether the helpers have suitable accommodation or not so some helpers end up sleeping on a bed over the toilet or in a store room with toxic substances- absolutely incredible …. well not really, the authorities here seem quite happy to play dumb and let employers get away with this sort of thing.
HK-Lover
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.
andreaswagner
Hongkongers need to get their fingers out of their ****s and learn to work again. Lazy gits.
michaelhctam@gmail.com
B-But.....who's going to chew my food for me?
Yknot
Agencies charge illegal fees and collude with loan sharks to put helpers into debt bondage.
.
Most employers break the law by refusing to allow helpers a full 24 hour holiday each week and fail to treat their helpers with respect. Then of course there are those employers who physically and sexually abuse their helpers.
.
And it's a surprise that we are facing a shortage of helpers!
captam
This should act as a sober reminder to employers to treat their helpers with respect and not expect them to work very long hours like a slave. Making them wash the car is the first thing which should be dropped.
cc88
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?
captam
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.
mdap
completely agree! I have 3 cars, each of them is washed professionally by Challenger car services, expect on older classic car; this one I wash myself - Sunday morning, radio on and a beer in my hand I spend hours making it look beautiful. Sundays my maid is off, even though she comes back early every evening she will find the kitchen clean and nothing to be done - a day of rest for her is her day and I am still able to clean dishes and make my own bed!
ejmciii
Well said.
 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or