Myanmar to Provide the Next Wave of Asia’s Domestic Helpers

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Dec. 18 – Burmese Aiyees and Amahs are poised to be the next wave of new domestic helpers in Hong Kong after the Myanmar Consulate announced this week that it is now open to companies applying for Technical Employment Service Center Licenses. These licenses are required by employment agencies to import foreign workers, including maids. Over the years, both the Philippines and Indonesia have developed large pools of domestic helpers in Hong Kong, and these have now become important centers of foreign exchange remittances back to their home countries.

Hong Kong’s Technical Employment Service Center will be travelling to Myanmar in January to develop a training institute to prepare potential helpers for their work with Hong Kong families. If successful, the Myanmar scheme may be rolled out to other countries in Asia, such as Singapore.

Bangladesh has also started providing maids to Hong Kong, with the first batch of eleven Bangladeshi domestic helpers arriving in May of this year.

Previously, Burmese nationals were prohibited from working overseas in the domestic services industry, but these barriers are now coming down as the country’s government officials recognize the economic opportunities in the sector. With an average monthly salary of US$250 in Myanmar, Hong Kong’s minimum wage of US$520 offers a substantial benefit to foreign maids working in the territory.

Demand for domestic servants is also expected to increase over the coming years as the number of workers from the Philippines and Indonesia begins to wane. Jakarta, for instance, plans to end its flow of domestic helpers to Hong Kong by 2017.

Hong Kong’s Vice-Chairwoman of the General Chamber of Manpower Agencies, Teresa Liu, stated that Hong Kong could absorb up to 10,000 domestic helpers from Myanmar. The territory is currently home to nearly 300,000 foreign domestic workers, representing 3 percent of Hong Kong’s population.

With its large workforce of foreign domestic helpers, Hong Kong has established some of the best industry protections for their population of foreign maids, including legal rights, a minimum wage and guaranteed days off.

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