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Hundreds of Filipino domestic workers pictured in Hong Kong. They are also widely employed in Singapore and Canada. Photo: Reuters

Confusion lingers over proposals for Filipino domestic helpers entering China

Claims that Filipino helpers will be allowed to work on the mainland no closer to being verified after officials in Manila contradict each other

Confusion lingers over whether the mainland is considering a plan to allow domestic helpers from the Philippines to be hired in five big cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

A Filipino official claimed China had been studying the possibility of such a plan and that there had been preliminary talks between middle-ranking officials from China and the Philippines.

Dominador Say, undersecretary for employment and policy support at the Philippines department of labour and employment, said a representative from the Chinese embassy in Manila had visited the department last month to discuss a preliminary plan.

“We talked about the possibility of hiring Filipino workers in China,” Say told the South China Morning Post yesterday.

However, Say said he could not remember the name or title of the Chinese official.

He was responding to queries about a report carried in the ­Manila Bulletin newspaper on Monday in which he discussed the plan.

The Chinese embassy, however, told the Post that it was not aware of the matter and declined to comment further.

The Philippines’ labour secretary, Silvestre Bello, on Monday also denied knowledge of the matter.

Say was quoted as saying that the Chinese official he met had noted that many Chinese families could now afford to hire Filipino helpers, whom they liked for their peaceful culture and proficiency in English, which could help their children in their studies.

In July 2015, Shanghai began allowing foreign residents to hire domestic helpers from overseas, but Chinese citizens were still banned from employing them.

Domestic workers from the Philippines pictured during a day off in Hong Kong. They may soon be able to earn double their minimum Hong Kong wage on the mainland. Photo: SCMP

Say added that China was considering hiring 100,000 household service workers a month. He told the Post that the number was meant to cover all foreign domestic workers on the mainland.

“The number is not just for those from the Philippines,” he said, adding that the talks with the Chinese official were exploratory and discussions would continue next month when a Chinese delegation visited the Philippines.

An estimated 200,000 Filipino domestic workers worked illegally on the mainland last year due to China’s strict work visa policy, Bello said.

Without work permits, most Filipino domestic helpers enter the mainland on tourist visas that allow them to stay for up to 14 days. Overstayers face fines of ­between 5,000 and 20,000 yuan (HK$5,800 to HK$23,200) on leaving the country.

In more serious cases they risked between five and 15 days’ detention.

“In many of Beijing’s high-end residential communities, Filipino maids are frequently seen working illegally. The employment of these workers has become a fact on the mainland,” Miao Lu, secretary general of the Beijing-based Centre for China and Globalisation think tank, said.

It has become increasingly expensive to hire local domestic helpers. And as Chinese families grew richer, they had also raised their expectations for household help, she said.

“The quality of local domestic helpers cannot meet the requirements of China’s rising middle class, while Filipino workers have adapted to the Chinese culture quite well as they work for many families of Chinese origin in other regions of the world.”

She said Filipino helpers were also popular in Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada and should be allowed to work legally on the mainland. She added that the government should not ignore the growing demand for their services, but work to meet it.

In Shanghai, a Filipino domestic helper usually earns 7,000 to 8,000 yuan a month – almost double the HK$4,210 minimum salary for a helper in Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: confusion lingers over maidproposal