More affluent China province may legalize imports of foreign maids

2008-01-22 04:24:04 Xinhua English

GUANGZHOU, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- China should start a pilot program to recruit foreign domestic helpers to address growing demand for such services, according to deputies in the Guangdong Province legislature.

Zhuang Shunfu, deputy to the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress, made this suggestion along with 12 other deputies during the ongoing provincial congress. The proposal, if adopted, would legalize imports of household staff in the southern Chinese province and perhaps eventually other parts of the country.

"There is a growing demand for foreign household helpers, especially those from southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, who have won a good reputation in Hong Kong, neighboring Guangdong," said Zhuang.

Some agencies in Guangdong have already advertised the availability of Filipino maids, who are described as having college educations and experience in Hong Kong.

"None of the foreign household helpers working in China's big cities like Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Beijing and Shanghai are legal, since China only issues legal work permits to foreign professionals, not common laborers," explained Zhuang.

The deputies proposed that a pilot program be launched in two or three cities under which work visas would be issued to foreign household staff. Zhuang said the law would need to be amended for this purpose.

He said that there are some 500,000 agencies for household staff in China, but many firms complained that they could not find high-quality household staff for affluent Chinese families or expatriate residents, as most service staff are from poor rural areas and have little education.

The Boni Household Service Agency in Shanghai specializes in providing household staff for foreigners. The company defines high-quality household helpers as those who can speak fluent English and do more than just simple cleaning. That means anything from arranging the family diet to managing household expenses and gardening, in addition to caring for children and the elderly, cooking and doing household chores.

The monthly salary for a five-star household helper, the highest level, is well above 2,500 yuan (about 350 U.S. dollars), which is competitive with wages in Hong Kong, according to the company.

Household staffing agencies in Guangdong estimated that demand for such maids in Shenzhen and Guangzhou is around 100,000 in each city.