Filipino workers sit outside in Central, Hong Kong in June. Photo: CFP
Officials have yet to verify widespread media reports of a plan that would allow Filipino maids and other domestic workers to be employed legally in Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai for higher salaries.
But Chinese experts welcome such a move, claiming it would help curb the existing and often chaotic illegal labor market for Filipino household service workers (HSWs) in China while deepening bilateral ties between Beijing and Manila.
Five cities would pilot the proposed plan, including Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, to hire Filipino HSWs, Dominador Say, deputy head of the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) told The Philippine Star on July 30.
Monthly salaries would be around 13,000 yuan ($1,932), Say told the Star, adding a Chinese delegation would go to the Philippines to continue talks on the plan in September.
However, Li Lingxiao, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, told the Global Times on July 31 it was not aware of the plan.
Say later insisted to the South China Morning Post that China is mulling the employment scheme, but called the 13,000 yuan figure incorrect.
Such a proposal should come as no surprise, said Zhu Lijia, a professor of public management at the Chinese Academy of Governance, because it is meeting market demand.
“Filipino HSWs would fill a gap in China’s domestic services market, where domestic workers are in short supply,” Zhu told the Global Times on Thursday.
While market forces will most likely keep salaries to around the domestic monthly average (between 6,000 and 8,000 yuan), the plan will help shore up bilateral ties between Beijing and Manila following the South China Sea dispute in the past, Zhu added.
Perks to work
Filipino HSWs, known as feiyong in Chinese, have long been sought out in Hong Kong for their work ethic and professionalism.
However, the majority are working illegally.
According to the Yangtze Evening Post on August 2, almost all HSWs initially enter China on a tourist visa, then overstay and work without the legal permits.
“Most would love to come to work in the Chinese mainland, because they think China’s economy is growing fast,” a Philippine national identifying only as “Diwan” told the paper.
Diwan had worked as a HSW in Hong Kong for 11 years before moving to Beijing in 2008 and opening a household services training center.
“Some would try their luck in China even without getting a job first, because they think they can make a fortune here,” she added.
Monthly salaries start between 6,000 and 8,000 yuan for inexperienced workers and can reach as high as 15,000 yuan, Diwan said.
As HSWs increasingly become an affordable option for Chinese families, high demand has resulted in a black market plagued with intermediaries and agents.
“Favorite Employment Co,” a WeChat account that claims to be a Beijing-based agency, targets Chinese companies seeking to hire Filipino HSWs.
The agency updates the account almost every month with profiles of workers waiting in the Philippines for hire. According to their latest update, five workers, aged from 23 to 43, are now available.
Profile photos and video resumes include education backgrounds and employment history.
Most have college degrees and overseas work experience in cities and regions such as Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong.
“You should first ask your company to provide a work permit before you make any reservation,” a company employee told the Global Times reporter posing as a prospective employer on Thursday.
The minimum is a two-year contract with a 7,800-yuan fee upon signing, the employee said.
Li Sheng, another agent, told the Global Times he charges a 25,000 yuan commission for any hires to cover tourist visa fees, while the HSW stands to make 7,500 yuan a month.
According to Professor Zhu, legalizing the industry would do much to eliminate risk.
“Before HSW employment is legalized, the market will be chaotic with no standard rates, while the interests of both Philippine workers and their Chinese employers will remain unprotected,” Zhu said.
“Chinese authorities would provide oversight of the market to vet out shady or fraudulent agents,” Zhu added.
Source: Global Times