The Myanmar government will allow a Hong Kong agency to recruit Myanmar women to work as domestic helpers in the city.
Hong Kong’s Golden Mind Employment Agency became the first agency to be given permission to recruit domestic workers from the former pariah state, the South China Morning Post reported.
The agency hopes the move will help overcome a shortage of such workers from the Philippines, while Myanmar hopes it will reduce its unemployment and illegal emigration woes.
“In the past, Myanmar might have been reluctant to let its citizens [work] as domestic assistants abroad due to some problems and difficulties they might face,” a spokesman for Myanmar’s consulate in Hong Kong was quoted as saying. But the Southeast Asian country is now “more open to the outside world,” he said.
The spokesman also said Hong Kong is seen as “reliable” because it had rules and regulations in place that would protect domestic helpers’ rights.
“[The move] will also help reduce the unemployment rate in Myanmar, as well as illegal migration of workers to neighbouring countries,” he said.
Anita Lim Shuk-ling, the agency’s general manager, told the newspaper that it had worked on the plan with a well-connected business partner in Myanmar for three years.
The agency has been given a quota to bring in 200 people in the first batch. Sixty of them will arrive at around the end of January. The agency plans to bring in 1,000 Myanmar helpers in 2014. Thousands of them are already working as helpers in Singapore. But they arrived on visitor visas and switched to working visas rather than going through a formal arrangement with the government in Nay Pyi Taw.
Hong Kong’s Immigration Department data from November showed 43 Myanmar persons working as helpers in Hong Kong. Lim said they were brought in on an individual basis by Myanmar citizens who held Hong Kong residency.
Anita said her agency’s helpers went through two months of training, including cooking and Putonghua lessons, at a training centre in Yangon. One-third were university graduates, but they had not received Cantonese lessons as the agency was looking for tutors, she added.
Lim, who owns a recruitment agency in the Philippines, said it was increasingly difficult to hire Filipino helpers as they were being offered factory jobs paying about HK$5,400 ($695) a month in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Hong Kong’s monthly minimum wage for helpers is HK$4,010 ($520).
The Philippines and Indonesia have sought to curb their citizens from moving abroad to take on domestic work in recent years, and Hong Kong has been widening the net to other countries.