Mainland maids

THE Government's policy on foreign maids is the major underlying cause of disputes between employers and employees, especially communication problems and racial-cultural differences.

Many families have a pressing need for maids from the mainland to care for members, particularly the elderly and infirm who cannot speak English. English is the language used by most of the foreign maids currently employed here.

The elderly find it hard to get along with foreign maids since only a few can fully comprehend the instructions and psychological needs of the elderly and can converse well with them when they feel lonely.

As a result, some local women who could find productive employment have to stay at home to look after their elderly while mainland maids are banned from working here.

The ban on mainland maids is based on the fear they may breach their conditions of stay after arrival. This policy smacks of a double standard because maids from elsewhere have been caught violating their employment conditions and overstaying.

The Government can relax the ban on hiring mainland maids by setting some conditions for employers, such as: Making the applicant show his or her need for a domestic helper cannot be met by a foreign maid; and, Making applicants select such maids from a list of candidates approved by the Chinese authorities, to prevent direct recruitment of relatives from the mainland.

Existing laws already provide custodial sentences for applicants who make false representations to the Immigration Department.

It is now almost certain China will change the policy restricting mainland maids after 1997. Therefore, to ensure a smooth transition, the Government may as well relax the policy now, by allowing those families whose members know little English to hire mainland maids.