Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Non-profit agency places first 49 domestic helpers in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 February, 2015, 5:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 February, 2015, 5:24am

Asia's first not-for-profit domestic helpers recruitment agency has placed 49 maids with employers in Hong Kong since embarking on its no-placement-fee "revolution" last September, one of its founders said.

David Bishop, co-founder of Fair Employment Agency and principal lecturer at the University of Hong Kong's School of Business, hopes more business leaders will follow his model so that the agency will not need to exist in 10 years.

"We hope to start a global revolution for migrant labour placement that relies on ethics, that relies on law," said Bishop, a lawyer turned academic.

Under Hong Kong law, recruitment agencies are only allowed to charge employers 10 per cent of a maid's first-month salary, which amounts to HK$411 at present. The Philippine government does not allow agencies there to charge any placement fee.

But domestic helper groups have complained that many maids often have to pay around HK$20,000 in placement fees to agencies to secure a job in Hong Kong.

Helpers recruited by Fair Employment Agency do not have to pay any placement fee. The agency will charge employers standard service fees of around HK$8,000, depending on the services required.

The agency's corporate documents were drafted so that the founders cannot receive any windfall from profits. These will be directed back into the agency to expand its initiative.

Bishop said the agency had already made HK$316,000 after placing 49 Filipinos so far.

"We're generating revenue that can cover our basic expenses. There's no profit yet but we've almost broken even," he said. "When you're working with domestic helpers, you're not working with a commodity. You're working with humans."

Bishop said that if Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, the Indonesian helper abused by her employer, had been recruited by an ethical agency, she might not have had to endure such an ordeal.

As it was, Erwiana's agency offered her no help to get away from her abuser.