Bangladesh's diplomatic representative in Hong Kong says his consulate is close to reaching an agreement with local employment agencies on recruiting domestic workers in the South Asian country to work in the city.
The proposed agreement anticipates plans by both Philippine and Indonesian authorities to discourage their citizens from working as domestic helpers abroad, including Hong Kong, which employs more than 300,000 helpers from the two Southeast Asian countries.
Ashud Ahmed, Bangladesh's consul general, confirmed yesterday that he and his officials had been in talks with the employment agencies and that he was confident an agreement was near.
"I think it will be very soon, maybe around two to three months," Ahmed said. "We are thinking about it seriously … and we think that Hong Kong has a strong rule of law [to protect Bangladeshis]."
He said that training was essential to ensure that Bangladeshis could work competently in Hong Kong, given the differences between the two places in way of life and language.
However, Joe Chow Kui-kuen, the head of Asosiasi PPTKI Hong Kong, an organisation which represents 200 employment agencies in the city, said the talks had snagged on the issue of who would train the workers.
The Bangladeshi government wanted the agencies to help co-ordinate official training programmes in Bangladesh, but the agencies had reservations about doing so, Chow said.
"If we have to co-run the programmes with the [Bangladeshi] government, it will be hard to guarantee the quality," Chow said. "That's because if we think the programmes are not good enough, it will be hard for us to negotiate with the government."
The agencies have instead proposed managing the programmes jointly with private training companies in Bangladesh, but they had yet to reach an agreement on this point, he said.
In August, Chow said that the Hong Kong government had been involved in the talks with the Bangladeshis on the matter, and that "as far as I know, success is near".
Yesterday he said that talks with the consulate began about six months ago. Bangladesh's labour department was involved but not Hong Kong's, he added.
The Immigration Department does not ban Bangladeshis from working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, as it does in the case of Vietnam, Nepal and Cambodia, as well as the mainland.
Chow believes that an arrangement with Bangladesh will help to avoid a shortage of domestic workers that will occur once the Philippine and Indonesian plans, scheduled for 2017, take effect.
He predicts that, with a population of about 160 million, Bangladesh could send up to 5,000 helpers to Hong Kong in the first year, rising to 10,000 by the third year. They would be attracted by the city's minimum wage of HK$3,920 a month, he added.
As of July, there were 149,009 Filipino and 152,557 Indonesian helpers in Hong Kong, accounting for almost 98 per cent of the domestic workers in the city.