The coronavirus is still making its impact felt this year as it causes financial distress and misfortune globally.
In Macau, Covid-19 mostly left the city with a non-stop fear of economic depression. However, while many workers are worried about unemployment, underemployment, unpaid leave and salary cuts, some employers are worried about not being able to find workers.
In particular, within this category are families in need of a domestic helper who cannot currently find one.
The voices of these families are represented by lawmakers including Wong Kit Cheng, who shares opposite views on the topic with specific regard to foreign domestic helpers and mainland domestic helpers.
Represented by Wong, some employers of domestic helpers have been complaining about foreign employees. Recently, Wong wrote an interpellation to the local government urging the authority to facilitate local families hiring mainland domestic helpers. Wong, who frequently speaks on affairs relating to women and children, specifically condemned foreign domestic helpers for their “aggressive” behavior.
“Recently, foreign helpers intentionally move to other employers. They are frequently absent from work, do not pick up the employers’ phone calls, and take interviews with other families while being absent from their work. [These situations] largely affect the employers, both in regard to work and family matters. Since Macau has up to 30,000 foreign domestic helpers, which has a significant impact on local families, what are the government’s countermeasures?” Wong said.
To address the issues she raised, Wong proposed the local government consider importing more domestic helpers from mainland China.
According to the statistics of the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL), as of the end of September, 510 mainland residents are working in Macau as domestic helpers, most of whom (72) are from Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian. Since November 2018, residents from Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, Huanan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Sichuan and Guizhou are allowed to work in Macau as domestic helpers.
The labour affairs authority has also made it clear that “currently, Macau has imposed no restrictions on the quota to hire domestic helpers from mainland China.”
Lawmaker Agnes Lam also raised concerns over the lack of domestic helpers, and she once again urged the government to allow the rehiring of foreign domestic helpers.
In an interpellation Lam sent to the government yesterday, she pointed out that the number of foreign domestic helpers has decreased to 29,683 in November 2020 from 30,923 in January 2020. Lam also remarked that Macau has encountered a shortage of domestic helpers.
As a result, Lam urges the government to consider taking special measures to allow stranded and unemployed foreign domestic helpers to be rehired.
Speaking to the Times, Lam said that she has received assistance requests from approximately 20 families who have been unable to find a domestic helper.
In Lam’s opinion, hiring domestic helpers from mainland China is a tough scenario at the current stage, as some local families can’t afford to hire one.
Furthermore, speaking about foreign domestic helpers, Lam endorsed their work ethic.
Political and social scientist Larry So shares a similar stance to Lam, saying, “The biggest issue is the difference between the salaries of foreign domestic helpers and mainland domestic helpers.”
“There is not much chance of [successfully] hiring mainland domestic helpers for 3,000 to 4,000 patacas, and not many local families can afford 7,000 to 8,000 patacas,” said So.
So also considers rehiring stranded unemployed domestic helpers to be potential a solution.
Some mainland netizens call for Filipino house helpers
While Macau families are struggling to find a suitable domestic helper, mainland families are still expressing the desire to hire foreign domestic helpers, especially those coming from the Philippines
According to netizens’ comments circulating on Weibo, some mainland families wish to hire Filipino domestic helpers particularly because of their “excellence in cleaning,” and because many Filipino domestic helpers speak fluent English.
However, as of today, mainland China has not officially set up a “domestic service” visa for foreign nationals to work as domestic helpers.
On Taobao, there are self-claimed “approved agencies” offering services for mainland families to hire foreign domestic helpers. These agencies claim that the minimum salary for a Filipino domestic helper is 5,500 Chinese Yuan (6,808 patacas).
These groups do not chat with a customer via the official Taobao chat channel. Most of them propose that they discuss the matter with customers privately on WeChat.
One of the “agencies” requires successfully matched domestic helpers to give four months’ salary to the agency as a deposit.