Myanmese maids may become a new addition to Hong Kong households, with a major domestic helper agency intending to apply for a licence from Myanmar to import its workers.
Technic Employment Service Centre revealed its plans after a source familiar with the matter said the consulate of Myanmar in the city had told local agencies that the licence was available for application.
"We have negotiated with Myanmese officials on the matter for several years, but have never filed an official application for an [import] licence," Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of the centre, said.
"We shall visit the country next month and hope to make a deal [with the government]."
If successful, the centre hoped to start up a training institute in Myanmar to prepare aspiring helpers for their work with Hong Kong families, Liu said.
In May, Hong Kong accepted its first official batch of Bangladeshi domestic helpers, comprising 11 women, after years of employing mainly Filipinos and Indonesians.
Jakarta has set a target not to send any more of its nationals abroad for domestic help by 2017. The consulate of Myanmar could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Myanmar had never issued such a licence before as the country was reluctant to become a source of domestic help, which was viewed as a low-skilled job, said Liu, who is also vice-chairwoman of the General Chamber of Manpower Agencies. "It would be a breakthrough and a piece of good news if a licence could be granted," she said.
Hong Kong could accommodate up to 10,000 Myanmese helpers per year, she said.
Textiles and garment sector lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan, who discussed the matter with Myanmar's consul general in October, will meet the country's labour minister before the year is out.
Chung, of the Liberal Party, who is planning a "garment industrial park" in Myanmar, hoped the country could export domestic helpers on a mass scale.
"Although introducing Myanmese helpers will not lower the cost to employers because of the minimum wage policy, it is always good to offer locals new choices," he said. The statutory minimum wage for domestic workers is HK$4,010 a month.