The long-sought plan for Myanmar to send domestic helpers to Hong Kong has stalled as Myanmar officials express caution amid growing concerns over the working conditions of the first 19 Myanmar maids in the metropolis.
A Ministry of Labour representative confirmed with local media that the original plan had changed. U Min Hlaing, chair of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Federation with close links to the government, was quoted as saying to take “precautionary measures” and not sending maids “too quickly”.
The halt comes against the backdrop of allegations of maid abuse in Hong Kong, amongst which the brutal abuse of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih has created a high-profile scandal that made headlines in major media outlets and invited scrutiny from civil groups.
The 19 Myanmar maids are also reportedly “appalled” by the prohibitive fee of HK$26,000 ($3,355) charged by “wolf-like” agents, and disturbed by the hustle and bustle in Hong Kong, Oriental Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper, said.
In January, Felix Chung, the Hong Kong lawmaker who initiated the original plan, met Myanmar’s Minister of Labour U Aye Myint in the wake of the abuse scandal.
“The minister brought up the case [of Erwiana] in the meeting and asked if there was any legislation in Hong Kong that protects the foreign maids,” Chung told the South China Morning Post.
However, he added then, “But Myanmar still finds the plan attractive … I don’t think the widely reported case of Erwiana will be a big problem.”
Chung had sought to import up to 20,000 Myanmar maids a year to Hong Kong. To date, Myanmar maids are allowed to work in Singapore, where labour protection is perceived to be no less inadequate than its regional rival.