1 May 2018

Domestic Helper - Hong Kong/Malaysia/UAE, etc

Activist - fighters for migrant workers
Maids (FDWs) finding LOVE in Spore
Pregnant FDW
Maid agency
Maid with personal mobile phone

Detractors deride President Duterte for asking Filipino workers to leave Kuwait, Straits Times, 30 Apr 2018
A Philippine labour group and a senator on Monday (April 30) accused President Rodrigo Duterte of gambling with the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Filipinos in Kuwait, after he asked them to come home amid a diplomatic dispute over reported labour abuse.

The Philippines and the Gulf Arab state are embroiled in a row over what Mr Duterte says is a pattern of mistreatment of domestic workers by Kuwaiti employers.  The Philippine ambassador has been asked to leave following attempts by embassy workers to "rescue" distressed workers there, which Kuwait says is a breach of its sovereignty.

Mr Duterte over the weekend appealed to the "sense of patriotism"of overseas Filipino workers, known as OFW, and asked them to return home, where he said they would get financial aid and job opportunities in other countries.

Critics said Mr Duterte had no way of guaranteeing that and should not ask those whose income was vital to their families back home to quit their jobs.  Senator Risa Hontiveros called Mr Duterte's request "extremely reckless, shortsighted and uncaring".

"President Duterte should stop gambling with the lives and employment of thousands of OFWs, and the welfare of their families, in a desperate attempt to break the diplomatic impasse," she said in a statement.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had imposed a prohibition on workers heading to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in the Gulf state.  The Philippines imposed a ban in February on facilitating Filipino employment in Kuwait and helped several thousand workers return home after reports of suspicious deaths of domestic helpers.

The flashpoint was the discovery of a Filipino maid's body in a freezer in an abandoned home, and signs that she was tortured.  Mr Duterte said on Saturday that the ban was permanent, although his spokesman Harry Roque suggested on Monday that a labour protection agreement between the two countries may still happen.  Mr Roque also clarified that Mr Duterte "is not compelling anyone to come home".

Domestic helpers account for more than 65 per cent of the more than 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, according to Philippine government data.  The earnings overseas workers send home is vital to sustaining low-income families and a crucial economic driver.  As many as 60,000 workers might return from Kuwait, said Mr Jacinto Paras, undersecretary at the Labour Ministry.  "Those who have been running away, complaining of abuses and maltreatment, they can be free to return," he told the ANC news channel on Monday.

Migrante International, an alliance of Filipino migrant organisations, doubted the government could provide for those who return.  "We cannot expect our OFWs to come home if the root cause of their migration - poverty due to landlessness and lack of decent jobs - still exists and is actually worsening," it said.

Kuwait expels Philippine envoy amid tensions over domestic workers, Straits Times, 21 Apr 2018
Kuwait on Wednesday (April 25) ordered the ambassador from the Philippines to leave within a week and recalled its own envoy for consultations after embassy staff tried to “rescue” Filipino domestic workers amid reports of abuse.

The decision was the latest episode in a three-month conflict sparked by reports that several Filipinos had been driven to suicide by the abuse of Kuwaiti employers.  The two countries have been working on a pact to protect expatriate workers after the Philippines banned the dispatch of workers to Kuwait, after reports of abuse.

The Philippines had apologised on Tuesday for what Kuwait viewed as a “flagrant” violation of its sovereignty. The Philippine foreign secretary said the embassy was forced to “assist” Filipino workers who sought help as some situations were a matter of life and death.

Kuwait’s foreign ministry said it had given the ambassador three days to provide the names of Filipino residents in Kuwait who had “kidnapped” domestic workers from their employers’homes, adding it had yet to receive a response from the embassy.

Kuwaiti security forces “will continue to chase down those who violated the security of the country” and put them on trial, the ministry added in a statement.

In a statement, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said the action taken by the Kuwaiti government was “deeply disturbing” and inconsistent with assurances given by the Kuwaiti ambassador during his meeting with Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano on Tuesday.

“In discussions at every level with Kuwait, the Philippines has always emphasised that the well-being of Filipino nationals wherever they may be will always be of paramount importance,” the statement said.

Domestic helpers account for more than 65 per cent of the more than 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, according to the Philippines’ foreign secretary.  In February, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on Filipino workers in Kuwait to return home after the discovery of a domestic worker’s body in a freezer in an abandoned home. He said then that a list of both reported and unreported cases of mistreatment of Filipino migrant workers would be prepared.

Foreign workers in many Gulf states are employed under a sponsorship system that gives employers the right to keep their passports and exercise full control over their stay.  Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have long complained that Gulf states do not properly regulate working conditions for low-income domestic workers and labourers.  They say excessively long hours and insufficient flexibility to change contracts or return home contravene international labour laws and deprive workers of their human rights.

New destinations for Philippine workers are Russia and China, Straits Times, 24 Apr 2018
Russia and China are just some of the promising destinations for Filipinos looking for jobs abroad as the Philippines seeks to cut its reliance on the Middle East.

"Russia is opening their market for the first time to the Philippines," Bernard Olalia, head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, said in an interview in his office in Manila. "They want a government-to-government deployment scheme, just like what we did with China."

Russia is hiring skilled workers in construction and services and China is asking the Philippines to send over 2,000 English teachers this year, Olalia said on April 20. The Czech Republic and San Marino are also negotiating labour deals, he said.

For decades, the Philippines has relied on money sent home by millions of overseas workers to boost the economy and support the currency. The funds - estimated by the World Bank to be US$33 billion (S$43.6 billion) last year - account for about 10 per cent of gross domestic product and are the nation's largest source of foreign exchange after exports.

With exports faltering and stocks suffering outflows, officials are banking on remittances to help stabilize the peso, Asia's worst-performing currency this year.

The Middle East remains the largest destination for land-based workers with more than 1 million deployed in 2016, accounting for 63 per cent of the total. But the brutal killing of a domestic worker, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait, pushed President Rodrigo Duterte to order a deployment ban to the Arab state since February.

The Philippines is flexing its muscle to protect workers in other Middle Eastern countries amid cases of employer abuse, Olalia said.  A deployment ban to Saudi Arabia isn't far-fetched unless better labour conditions are provided, he said.  "We don't mind advising the President to impose a deployment ban in countries where our Filipino workers are suffering so much, like Kuwait," Olalia said.

The outlook for labour demand is strong and deployment will keep growing, Olalia said.  Ageing populations are prompting Japan and South Korea to place more job orders for Filipino health workers, while Singapore is looking to hire in its technology sector.

According to Olalia, the administration's policy now is to focus on skilled workers and professionals, whose working conditions are significantly better.  Duterte's US$180 billion infrastructure programme aims to create 2 million jobs a year, primarily in construction.

Officials are planning "reverse job fairs" in the Middle East to lure Filipino carpenters, welders and pipe-fitters back to the Philippines, Olalia said. Even so, the agency admits it would be tough to match the salaries abroad, which can typically go as much as 300 per cent higher than domestic wages.

"Compensation abroad is really higher than in the Philippines. But if you consider the social factor, the separation from family - that's more important than financial gain," Olalia said.

Maid in Hong Kong arrested after posting video of children in shower, Channel News Asia, 5 Dec 2017
An Indonesian domestic worker in Hong Kong was arrested after she uploaded a video which purportedly showed her giving showers to three children, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Tuesday (Dec 5).

The helper, 28, broadcast a live video on Facebook on Friday as she bathed the naked children – who were reportedly aged around seven or eight – in a flat on Electric Road, SCMP said.

The report added that the 17-minute clip was removed on Monday after it had been uploaded onto Facebook, and the helper is now being investigated by Hong Kong police for publishing child pornography.

According to the SCMP report, one of the children in the video asked "whether the helper was taking a video and telling her not to, but the helper refused to stop".

SCMP cited Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association chairman Cheung Kit-man as saying the domestic worker might not have known that she was breaking the law.

He reportedly said before starting work, domestic workers typically receive training from their agents and would usually be briefed on the dos and don’ts of working in a household, including boundaries on taking videos or photos of children. 

Maids in Hong Kong forced to sleep in toilets, Channel News Asia, 12 May 2017
Domestic workers in Hong Kong are being forced to sleep in toilets, tiny cubbyholes, and on balconies, activists found in an investigation that uncovered the "appalling" living conditions of maids in the wealthy financial hub.

In the city that employs 350,000 maids, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, three out of five domestic workers are made to live in unsuitable accommodation that sometimes threatens their health and safety, said rights group Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW).  (Winter: FDWs in Spore earn slightly lesser but are much more fortunate and well protected.  As a tiny red dot, our MOM is able to ensure FDWs have proper accommodation.  MOM gives in to source countries so .... isn't Spore like a haven, compared to Malaysia, UAE or Hong Kong?)

In a survey of 3,000 maids, MFMW found 43 per cent of the respondents said they do not have their own room and were asked to sleep in places including storage rooms, kitchens, toilets, basements, closets and on balconies.  (Winter: FDWs to have own room on tiny lands such as HK and Spore?  Why activists are such assholes? As long as it is a proper, well ventilated, hygienic (not toilet) resting place, why insist FDWs should have own room? Most Spore employers don't live in landed/private properties and have plenty of rooms to spare.  You mean employers should sacrifice by offering FDW a room and they sleep in their living room?  If the monthly paid employee is living in a proper place or shared room is labelled as slavery, why not tell source countries to stop "selling" their own people?  You should stop marketing your own people, treat them like humans, allow these women to be interviewed and have the rights to say no AFTER reading the host country contract and job scope BEFORE employers process employment.  Stop playing saints and prey on innocent parties, remove your "wolf clothings")

In one case, a domestic worker was made to sleep in a cubbyhole above the refrigerator and microwave oven. Another was forced to sleep in a cubbyhole over a shower.  Another helper slept in a tiny, 1.2-metre-high room built on a balcony, next to the laundry area.

"It is appalling we are allowed to do this to a domestic worker. This is modern-day slavery," lead researcher Norman Uy Carnay told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  "Most of this accommodation doesn't even approach basic human decency. Hong Kong is a world-class city, it shames Hong Kong to have this kind of treatment of its migrant domestic workers."

Carnay said maids should be given suitable accommodation even if they are in space-scarce Hong Kong, where sky-high property prices make housing unaffordable for many of the city's seven million residents.

In an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Hong Kong's Labour Department urged maids to lodge complaints and said employers can face action if they fail to provide suitable accommodation.

Asked whether sleeping in kitchens or toilets is acceptable, the department said it was "not feasible" to define what is suitable accommodation.

Of the 57 per cent of domestic workers surveyed with their own room, one-third said their quarters also doubles as a storage area, space for laundry, a study or a room for pets, MFMW said. Fourteen percent of the 3,000 polled said they have no ready access to toilets.

Domestic helpers said they had no choice but to accept the conditions.  "We agree because we need to earn money. If we disagree, of course, we're sent to the agency or we're sent to go back home, right?" one unidentified maid was quoted by MFMW as saying.

Carnay urged Hong Kong to outlaw unsuitable accommodation and abolish rules that make it mandatory for maids to live with their employers.  At present, the rules only say employers must not force maids to sleep on beds in the corridor with little privacy, or to share a room with an adult of the opposite sex.

Although domestic workers generally have better protection in Hong Kong than in other parts of Asia, mistreatment in the city has come under scrutiny since the 2014 case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian maid beaten by her employer and burned with boiling water.

17% of Hong Kong’s Domestic Workers Are Engaged in Forced Labor, Mar 2016
Winter: If Hong Kong DWs are forced to work, why so many scurry over?  Many prefer to work in HK then in UAE or Malaysia, why?  Activists are trying to say domestic workers are stupid .... brainless, don't know what's best for them?  Most of these women did weigh the pros and cons: to stay in source countries or work overseas.  Believe a lot of them can be contented women if activists stop creating tension or add fuel eg granting permanent resident of Hong Kong after seven years; work lesser but paid higher, etc.

The plight of domestic workers in Hong Kong has made headlines in recent years after several high-profile cases in which employers had beat and tortured their helpers.  A new study shows that, far from being isolated cases, instances of abuse are more routine and widespread than previously suspected.

A Justice Centre survey of more than 1,000 domestic workers found that 17% were engaged in forced labor. That means there could be more than 50,000 domestic workers working under duress among Hong Kong’s population of about 336,000 domestic workers, the vast majority of whom are women from Indonesia and the Philippines.  Among those engaged in forced labor, 14% had been trafficked into it, the survey found.

The most significant predictor of forced labor is whether or not a worker has debt, says Justice Center. Even before a woman starts work as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, she faces a raft of fees: training, recruitment, placement, medical examinations, insurance, certificates, visas and passport fees. Most of these are paid via loans.  More than 35% of respondents had debt burdens equal or greater than 30% of their annual income. Those who secured their jobs at home took on average 7 months to pay off their debts. This locks them into potentially abusive households.  (Winter:  maid agencies have to be strictly regulated not to overcharge.  All costs/loan should be made transparent before FDW/DW flies out to work.  Each agency has its own cost structure, it should be the same whether the prospective FDW/DW is in source country or in working place.  This is the only way to protect FDW/DW and employers who often get shot from the back by poisoned arrows)

Take the case of Amalia, a 28-year-old Indonesian woman profiled by Justice Centre. Amalia took out a loan to cover her recruitment costs, which totaled US$2,007 (HK$15,576) and was required to attend a training facility in Indonesia, where her passport was confiscated. In Hong Kong, Amalia works 14 hours a day and is given one day off every three weeks. She is paid US$517 (HK$4,010) a month and sends 50% of her salary back to her family in rural Indonesia. Her employment agency has said she can’t quit until she has repaid her debt.  Justice Center classifies unfree recruitment, work and life under duress and the impossibility of leaving as examples of forced labor. This includes workers being locked in training facilities or being required to work 20 hours a day, in the middle of the night, and on the legally mandated one day off. The International Labour Organization defines forced labor as work done involuntarily or under the menace of any penalty.

To be sure, many domestic workers are happy in their working situations, said Justice Center. The majority of women move voluntarily to seek a better life for themselves and their family in a city where they can earn relatively more money. Yet the lack of enforcement and “scattered” legislation in Hong Kong heighten the chances of exploitation and abuse, it adds.

Hong Kong mandates domestic workers have one day of 24 hours off a week, 12 holidays a year, a food allowance and be paid a minimum wage.  Yet those rules are hardly enforced, the study found. The survey found that domestic workers on average work 11.9 hours a day and that 36.7% have to work some portion of their mandated 24-hours off. Close to 72% were paid less than the minimum wage of $529.58 (HK$4,110) a month. Nearly 40% do not have their own room and 35.2% share a room with a child or elder person.

More than half of domestic workers surveyed, 55%, said they did not feel free to quit their jobs because they believed all jobs had similar living conditions. And more than 66% of those surveyed demonstrated strong signs of exploitation but not enough to be classified as forced labor. Only 5.4% showed no signs of exploitation.

In Hong Kong, foreign domestic workers also face onerous regulations such as a requirement they must live with the family for whom they work. A worker who wants to terminate her contract has two weeks to find another job in Hong Kong before being deported. And a worker who files an abuse charge against an employer is prohibited from working unless the case is resolved. They are also not entitled to rights to become a permanent resident of Hong Kong after seven years, as other foreign workers are.

Advocates have repeatedly lobbied for the live-in rule to be scrapped, as it traps workers with potentially abusive bosses. A spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Labour Department told China Real Time the live-in requirement must be “strictly maintained,” citing the need to give employment priority to local, non-foreign domestic workers, and the potential rise in medical, private housing and public transportation costs if workers are allowed to live elsewhere.

Like many other advocacy organizations, Justice Centre recommends scrapping the live-in and two-week limit requirements, as well as stricter laws to prohibit forced labor and give government departments the power to identify and assist victims. The center says its findings show that cases such as Erwiana’s aren’t an example of a “bad apple” employer, but a “tip-of-the-iceberg” scenario.

Staff crisis: new contract rule causes Filipino maid shortage in the UAE, Sep 2014 
After trawling through posts on social media and asking friends for recommendations, the British expatriate thought he had found what he was looking for – an English-speaking Filipino housemaid.  He and his wife, who have two young children, were offering what they thought was a fair salary and pleasant working conditions.

But after working for a week, the maid announced that she had a new job with another family, and quit. Four months later and thousand of dirhams out of pocket, the family is still without a domestic helper.  “Over the past few months we have employed five different would-be live-in nannies,” said the father. “We have offered to sponsor three of them directly and we’ve spent approximately Dh30,000, and we still have no nanny.

“This is a simple issue of supply and demand. There are so many families looking for domestic help at this time of the year and so few available maids. The people already working here are the only ones. They have to leave somebody to join somebody, so someone is always going to be left out.”

The family’s situation is far from unusual; social media and internet discussion forums are awash with similar tales of woe.  The problem can be traced to the beginning of June, when the Ministry of Interior introduced a new standard contract for domestic staff.

The previous contract required employers to allow household staff to freely communicate with their families in their home countries and with their embassy, and banned employers from forcing staff to extend their contracts without the verification and approval of their embassy.

The new contract omits those conditions. It also says recruitment agencies should not require potential employers to deal with embassies when signing contracts for domestic staff.  Before the new contract was introduced, employers were required to ratify staff contracts at the Philippine embassy, enabling it to keep a record of Philippine nationals working in the UAE and ensure that their basic employment rights were being met.

Once the contract was ratified, the Philippines overseas labour office would issue a letter of verification, permitting domestic staff to travel to the UAE.  Now, however, the Philippines refuses to approve the new standard contract, so there are no letters of verification. That means domestic staff hoping to work in the UAE cannot legally leave the Philippines.

The result has been a drastic drop in the number of available housemaids and a market shift in favour of the employee.  About 50,000 Filipinos are thought to be working as nannies and domestic staff in Dubai and the Northern Emirates alone, and without new recruits their bargaining power has increased.

Juliet Lasalita, who runs a recruitment agency in Al Ain, used to bring up to 70 housemaids a month from the Philippines through her agency. “I haven’t had any in four months,” she says.  “The Filipinos are not banned. The problem is that they can’t leave our country without the proper document, and that’s the contract verification because that’s the only document they can show at the airport to say they have their own sponsor over here.”

Many families say there are now so few Filipino housemaids or nannies that those still here are demanding much higher salaries than the legal minimum of Dh1,500 (S$576) a month.

On social media and Facebook sites there are whole conversations dedicated to the “ban”, with complaints from employers about housemaids asking for what are described as unrealistic wages and benefits, along with posts from domestic staff hoping to find new employment.

One woman, posting on a Facebook site on behalf of her friend, warns potential staff: “As long as you are not unreasonable with the amount you are asking for, she is willing to give a good salary and ALL of the benefits that you are entitled to under the law. Please do not contact her however if you are intent on exploiting her because she is American. She will pay a good salary but will not pay above the normal expected (don’t tell her you want 3,000AED a month, 2 days off etc).”

The British expatriate father has also been asked to pay much higher salaries. One woman was asking for Dh4,500 (S$1728), two days off a week and regular hours from 9am until 5pm.  He and his wife also paid an agency to hire someone from the Philippines because they could not find someone locally who was finishing an existing contract.  “She was literally one of the last ones in. We paid about Dh7,000 to that agency and all the visa fees on top of that. It was about Dh11,000. It didn’t work out either,” he says.

“It’s always a good thing that workers’ rights are balancing out, but at the moment the system is not working.”  While many accept that housemaids have long deserved a better deal, others are aggrieved that they are being forced to pay higher salaries. One writer blamed some wealthy employers for distorting the market by hiring staff they did not need and paying excessive salaries, thus creating a group of nannies and maids who were “more like predators … just looking for their next victim. I hope these people will understand and realise how unstable and dangerously out of control this thing is going”.

On the same Facebook site, another woman admits to breaking the law. “The nanny I have, who joined me in March, has below the minimum [wage], doesn’t get a day off but has an easy day and often sleeps before me.” Justifying the low wages, she explains: “She is provided with a mobile [phone] which was not part of the contract, has 24hr Wi-Fi; can eat the same food as us or eat Filipino food which I have purchased for her. I treat her like one of the family.”

That may not be enough in the current market, where maids in lower paid positions are looking for a higher salary and better working conditions with another employer.  One maid, in her fifties, is looking to leave her British employers after three years because she wants a higher salary. She has been a housemaid in the Arabian Gulf for 15 years and earns Dh2,200 (S$844), but has to buy her own food and toiletries.

“I want a little bit more, for the food only,” she says, but would not say how much she was looking for. “It depends on the situation. I have enough experience. I want them to treat me fairly, as a member of the family. I like the family I am with, but am looking around. There are many families wanting a nanny, I think I will find one very easy.”

She denies that housemaids discriminate against Arab families, but she wants to work for a western family.  “I know ladies working with an Emirati family and they tell me the salary is only Dh1,200 or Dh1,000 (S$384). I don’t know why,” she says.  Ms Lasalita agrees that the nationality of a potential employer can be an issue. Most housemaids, she says, “want to work with the expats because they give them more salary”.

One Emirati mother, from Abu Dhabi, admits that the salaries she and her friends pay are sometimes lower but blames the recruitment process. “Most expats get their maids privately, so that’s why they pay more,” she says.  “Most Emiratis will go to the agencies and pay Dh20,000, so that’s why we can’t pay Dh2,000 a month, we spent a lot in the first place. We looked for someone here already but we couldn’t find anyone.”

A mother of four children, all under eight years of age, she has had bad experiences with maids and now chooses to look after her children herself.  One maid, she says, had a series of relationships with men and the family did not want her bringing her personal life into their home.  “I don’t care as long as you keep it to yourself,” she says.  “But after six or seven months she started not doing any work and going to her room every 20 minutes. She just left the kids in the pool. That made me really upset.

“We checked her phone. I didn’t want men coming into my house; you hear all these stories. Then we stopped letting her out, we offered her the chance to leave, but she was crying and saying she wants the job. Nobody was abusive to her, nobody beat her or starved her.”

When the contract expired the family terminated her employment and decided to live without a housemaid.  “I didn’t realise how much my nanny did for my kids that they should be doing on their own. Now it is much better. Families can depend too much on nannies and maids. I think a lot of young Emirati mums are becoming less dependent on nannies.”

She says the reputation Emirati families have of being tougher employers is unwarranted and mainly the result of maids exaggerating tales about their treatment.

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Oct 2015
With effect from 1 October 2015, HK Government stated the DH Minimum Allowable Wage is set at HK$4,210 (S$754) per month for foreign domestic helper, $100 increase from HK$4,110.  Most of the domestic helpers are experience maids .... painstaking trained by Sg employers.  In Hong Kong, domestic helpers can typically be charged placement fee around 31,000 to 37,000 (S$6700÷754=8 months free labour) Hong Kong dollars in total, according to Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization (NGO).   By comparison, in the Philippines, the median salary for a housekeeper is around 129,000 pesos or less than $3,000 (S$90) a year, according to PayScale, a compensation data provider.  In a perfect scenario, one domestic helper chosen (employed) immediately, the profit margin could be 75% for the agency, said Scott Stiles, Fair Employment Agency's.  

"There are thousands of agencies in the region, perhaps hundreds of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) concerned with migrants and also probably hundreds of interested academics, but as far as I know, no-one has published a break-down of the actual costs of recruitment alongside the charges typically made by agencies," John Gee, chair of the research sub-committee at Singapore-based non-profit Transient Workers Count Too.  "We think that agency charges are largely a matter of what the market will bear, rather than a reasonable percentage mark up on services provided," Gee said.  (Winter:  I agree agency fee should be more transparent.  It will give FDWs a clearer picture before they are conned by recruiters to fly over and work as maids)

Around 50 percent of Hong Kong's more than 330,000 foreign domestic helpers are from the Philippines, while around 45 percent are from Indonesia, according to data from Hong Kong's immigration department.  "Sometimes they have to pay their whole salary for [monthly payments] and they are left with nothing. They have to borrow more," Asis said. "It creates a vicious cycle of debt."  If the workers can't pay, they receive court orders in Chinese and sometimes face illegal collection methods, including death threats, a situation worsened when contracts end before the full two-year term, as is often the case, he said.

"The amount domestic helpers paid can't even afford basic living," said Ann Lee, a Hong Kong NGO. In addition, "sometimes the contract will suddenly end and they have nowhere to go."  If a worker gets sent home, the chances of ever shaking free become remote. "The agency will come after her for the debt. Also, her family is often angry. They may be pursued by the original recruiter or agency in the home country," said John Gee, chair of the research subcommittee at Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a Singapore NGO. In closely knit rural areas, coming back without money can also be seen as an embarrassment, he noted.  (Winter:  This is an 'interesting finding', at least maids in HK are made to be responsible for their actions and loans. If can't pay, their families will be hunted. In Spore, Employers have to pay maid loan on behalf of FDWs - held at ransom... means Sg FDWs have no financial stress/strings tied to them so if they run or job hop, their employers suffer financial losses.  It is our money, we lent FDWs our money in the form of maid loan.... interest & stress free to FDWs!)

Minimum monthly salary of domestic workers, including 4 off days from three most popular countries:
INDONESIA - From $550 starting in 2016
THE PHILIPPINES - From US$400 (S$570)
MYANMAR - From $450

Malaysia yet to decide on salary increase for Indonesian maidsBernama 4 June 2015 

Malaysia yet to decide on salary increase for Indonesian maids
There are currently 146,993 registered foreign domestic maids in the country and most of them are from Indonesia. - File Photo
KUALA LUMPUR: The government has yet to decide on the salary increase for Indonesian maids, from RM700 to RM1,200 a month as proposed by the Indonesian government.

Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Mutalib said the matter had to be studied and discussions to be held with the various quarters before any decision could be made.

"The salary increase was proposed by the Indonesian government, but we have not made any decision on it," he told reporters after presenting contributions to 50 students pursuing studies at institutions of higher learning here today.  However, he said the proposed salary increase by the Indonesian government was too high

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Middle East ban will put maids at greater risk, Straits Times, 18 Jun 2015
Indonesia's proposed ban on sending domestic workers to the Middle East will force women seeking an escape from poverty to migrate illegally, and put them at greater risk of human trafficking, a rights campaigner has said.

President Joko Widodo announced last month that Indonesia would stop sending new domestic workers to 21 Middle Eastern countries after Saudi Arabia executed two Indonesian maids, including Siti Zainab who was beheaded this year for murder, local media reported.

Ms Eni Lestari, chairman of the International Migrants' Alliance comprising more than 120 member organisations, said Indonesians would continue to seek work overseas unless the government did more to tackle poverty.  "This moratorium makes women more vulnerable because they will migrate anyway," Ms Lestari told the Thomson Reuters Foundation yesterday.

"It's not about protecting migrant workers - on the contrary, it increases the risk that they are trafficked because they will be illegal migrants and have no protection at home and in their destination countries," she said.  Ms Lestari was speaking on the sidelines of Trust Forum Asia, a conference co-hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation that aims to tackle modern-day slavery.

An estimated 600,000 Indonesians work in the Middle East, mostly as domestic workers.  Indonesia's proposed ban, which is expected to come into effect later this year, affects Saudi Arabia - a major destination for Indonesian domestic workers - the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt among other countries.

Despite Indonesia's success in more than halving the poverty rate since 1999, some 28 million Indonesians in a country of 252 million still live below the poverty line.  The government's practice of issuing licenses to private agencies to organise "the export of migrant workers" had resulted in widespread exploitation and abuse, said Ms Lestari.

Previous bans in Indonesia and other countries, such as Malaysia, have not reduced domestic worker abuse, according to evidence collected by advocacy groups.  If governments want to make a real difference, Ms Lestari said, they should legislate to guarantee employment contracts of migrant workers to avoid them being exploited by recruitment agencies and employers.

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Aug 2015
Winter:  Below is a post that I've extracted from Hong Kong forum.  It just showed how stubborn activists are.  They refuse to compare apple to apple - Living standard and cost of living is different, yet they kept bitting on Asia domestic helpers' employer.  How can this world be fair and less conflict when some people are biased toward FDWs' employer?

Activist:  I am writing a book and have interviewed many helpers that come from all walks of life.  
Why are maids not allowed to leave their house at night after they have finished work?  
When you take the min wage in Hong Kong at $50 an hour they do not even come close to this hourly rate at 4000 hkd a month as most work from 8 am some earlier too 9pm at night?

I also understand they earn more money than working in the Philippines or Malaysia 
but is not reason to treat them as second class people as they are still human beings 
and trying to earn money for their families.

HK employer Greene: It seems that you have a rather one-sided view of life as a DH here. There are many reasons DH are in Hong Kong, not all purely financially driven. For instance they may be seeking a way to escape marriage in their own country, they may be seeking a foreign husband (and the opportunities this brings) or they may be seeking to have a same sex relationship, something which would be often be impossible back home. Some apparently come here to apply for a foreign country’s visa in a time that is much less than back home. Sticking purely with the financial aspect you raise though - it is possible to work as a DH in HK and after 4 years have enough money to buy a home in their own country something which can’t be bad can it? 

Also you presume that the DH has no time off during the day, what about the situations where the employers go to work, the kid goes to work and the DH has the daytime alone? True in some cases there are cameras checking on them but this I believe is not the normal case, most employers expect the DH to manage their time, complete their tasks and take breaks or relax accordingly. They also use apps to chat with friends or relatives just like non DH do and listen to radio stations in their own language, it’s not like they have no communication. 

One thing to remember is that in HK the family is the legal employer; you may say it is selfish however the employer might worry what the DH is getting up to and that it is the employer who could later ‘suffer’ should the DH stay out late at night ie the DH finds a boyfriend and wants to leave a few months after starting work or gets pregnant and the employer has to pay medical bills and give the DH time off work.

You also seem to forget that many DH actually enjoy their work. My DH enjoys coming out for dim sum or dinner or going to the beach or a BBQ even though she is still in theory working at the time. She loves being involved with the kid’s birthdays. Many times she has asked to come along on family outings on her days off as she does things she might not be able to do by herself whilst also saving money (she does not need to pay for transport or food). And at night she often likes to watch a movie with my family and me.

There are horror stories as to how DH are treated or abused but thankfully these are rare cases. Some do not work out in their job and suffer financially or otherwise but for the vast majority it is a chance to take a job that requires no formal qualifications and which allows them to achieve or do something that they cannot do back home. 

You have interviewed many many DH however to keep from being biased did you interview a similar number of employers or consular staff? I am talking from my experience and that of DH I have known not just my helper; I do know DH who have saved enough in 4-5 years to buy a home in their own country - the first year they spend 6 months or so paying agency fees etc then after that have very little cash outflow given that they don't pay for food or housing or utilities. Those first 6 months is the real make-or-break period. Go to a village or small town in Philippines or Indonesia and locals can easily point out those homes owned by DH working in HK.

I cannot agree either that the main reason DH come to HK is that they cannot find work in their own country - many can BUT it does not pay as well! How much do you think an unskilled job in Philippines or Indonesia pays?

Incidentally why did you start out with the interviews? Did you start independently or were you sponsored/backed in some manner by an NGO or other party?

HK Employer Lagrue: I am not surprised that no employer/consular official will speak to you, your post is aggressive in tone.

Maybe you want to rethink your approach and reflect on why you are getting the responses you are, sociology research should be undertaken with specific methodology. Going into an interview armed with loaded/rhetorical questions usually gives you a loaded/rhetorical answer!

Activist: I do have a meeting with a consular official to get their side of the story
i do not think my tone is aggressive at all i am stating what i have been told and also i did have a lot of questions to ask them.
i am not some stupid reporter or writer that does not prepare before i do an assignment

there is no where in a western world that you would be able to hire any one for that kind of salary you know that and i know that and hk is not exactly a poor nation

so we can go back and fourth until when ever and it will not change anything
i respect your view and comments so please respect mine also

HK Employer Lagrue: I can not deny that I have domestic helpers, I can also confirm that I pay them well above the minimum. All my helpers are free to go out in the evening......so I guess you have some sampling problems in your methodology....it would be a shame to put in all your hard work and have it not be generalisable to the Hong Kong population. That is what I meant about using proper methodology to conduct your research. being sponsored by an NGO or going to some shelter for abused helpers is not going to give you an accurate picture of the domestic helper situation in Hong Kong.

The wage is not as low as you would like to sensationally paint it. 4100 plus accommodation (if the helper has her own bedroom this would cost her possibly 2,000 per month in the boarding homes with very basic facilities - most employer's homes would be better than this so ?cost more ?3000 per month ) plus food (another 1000) plus medical expenses (?100 per month) = 7200 per month. No-one is saying that the domestic helper wage doesn't require redress, but it is not as low as you'd like to jump up and down and rage about. It looks much less outrageous for your write up to say 7,200 per month as opposed to 4100 per month, especially to the readers in the UK, US ect.

Listen if you asked a banker if they would take a job paying 15,000 per month as a local driver, they would say no way! As, given their skill set, education and market demand they could command in excess of 100,000hkd per month. Asking Greene whether he would work for 4,100 as a domestic helper is as a ridiculous argument as asking a banker to work for a local driver's salary. I totally don't get your logic and I fear for the balance of whatever you are attempting to write.

I am not here to tell you how to suck eggs, but if you are bonafide in trying to write a piece that really represents the situation of the Domestic Helper program in Hong Kong, you should enter the investigative process with an open mind. You should read what you have written and think whether it represents a rant or a fair balanced view. Perhaps exploring churches may help you find domestic helper who may be better taken care of, I don't know but methodologically you seem to have some major issues.

Moreover, as an investigative journalist you shouldn't have to be picked up on basic facts, freely available on the internet about the minimum wage in Hong Kong, irrespective of what ever a government official 'told you'.

Also your investigation suggests that domestic helpers prefer other countries but can't get there because of visa reasons. Therefore Hong Kong is not their top destination, they are here because they can't get to their aspirational country. Sure, everyone has aspirations but what they choose on a day to day basis reflects the BEST choice available to them. Hong Kong is the best choice available to the domestic helpers (even better than their own country). End of story.

At the end of the day, I have a feeling you'll write whatever you had in mind to write and will find evidence to back up your preconceived ideas, and it would probably make your NGO happy. I do hope you don't go down that path for your sake, and that you write a cogent, well reasoned, well researched piece.

Activist:  It looks much less outrageous for your write up to say 7,200 per month as opposed to 4100 per month, especially to the readers in the UK, US ect.

HK employer Greene: Cheap labor compared to say Europe or US? Yes. Compared to most of Asia, no. If HK life for DH is so bad then why are there 300,000 or so here? The ones I know made a cool and calculating decision to come here – the pay and lifestyle is better than they can obtain in virtually anywhere else in Asia or the Mid East doing a job that is unskilled and requires no formal education. I respect them for their decision and feel it is condescending to treat them as desperate or forced to come here. Do you deny that a DH in HK can earn in say 5 years enough to buy a home back in their own country? I notice you have not responded to this question.

It seems you also think because HK is 'rich' then DH should be paid more. To save you some research time note the following:
-approx 300,000 HK residents (excl FDH), around 10% of the workforce, earn the minimum wage. Do the math and that works out around $5,100 pm for a 50 hour week. Of course most don’t get accommodation or food or travel paid to them so they are likely worse off than a FDH in terms of disposable income after these expenses are taken in to account.
-the average (whatever that is) wage in HK is around $14,000 pm. Again not a lot when you need to pay accommodation, food, heating/aircon, food, electricity etc. 

Why do I keep going on? You yourself have admitted nothing mentioned by others in this forum will change your opinion on the issue hence why I believe your post was one-sided and biased, written to mold public opinion to suit the agenda of you and your backer, rather than have a true discussion or debate on the matters.

Activist:  We can go back and fourth until doomsday and we will not agree .
I think they should be paid what they are worth for 72 week which is what most of them work
hence they should be paid for 72 hours a week of work

HK employer 3: You always mentioned that you are could not agree with some of the posts here, i don't think that it is necessary to agree on anything as you are only gathering data. you are being too aggressive in pushing your findings but sadly though i don't think this thread would get you to what you are lobbying for.

I strongly suggest to get a hold of some of their (DH) contracts and base your questions from there, such as salary, holiday, etc etc and air out your concerns most specifically the salary to the who would be in the better or should i say legal position to do so.

Most of the working conditions are solely based on that contract and some may be added or removed which is up to the agreement between the employer and the employee.

the cases of maids that are being abused are only a small ratio of their whole population here in HK.  Also have you ever known stories that the maids are abusing their employers?  such as: inviting friends in their house when their employers are out of the country, Maids that are lazy, etc etc.

Have you also tried to interview those DH that are able to go out at night? there are numerous DHs that live out in boarding houses and are free to do whatever they want.  Seems like your findings are solely based on the FDHs being abused, not being able to live out, and their salary.

Lastly, may we know what your book is all about so all the readers may know as well how broad is your scope about DHs in HK and why is it just being narrowed down to the aforementioned items.

HK employer 4:  Myself, living with one DH over 26 years, and other DHs with younger tenure. I also tried Indonesian, Filipinos, Indians. Being in the field of law, I trust facts rather than opinions.

After opening this thread, I was amused by the hot debate over a claimed writer. I always advocate here, be respectful to each sides (employer and employee) and the world would be better. Less hatred and more appreciation and everyday you will find pleasure living with each other. That is also the foundation in maintaining the good relationship with the employers/employees, actually to every person around you.

Can the writer clarify.
- being not a stupid writer, may I know the organization or work title of the writer? What is the title of the book? I have connection with most of the consulates the writer deemed useful for the fact finding, I sincerely want to help.

- Talking about minimum wage, I was in the drafting process. The subject is for those who earned the citizenship on this land and have the innate responsibility to support their own cost of living, to pay rent, tax, transport, moral and financial support to their senior/junior generations on the same land. We cannot compare orange vs chicken, plants vs animals, they are in two domains.

- in your writing, please clarify that food allowance would be paid only if the employers would not provide / share food with the DH. Most of the DH shared the food in monetary term far more than such allowance. Not to mention the cooking utensil and fuel costs arisen from cooking them.

- There are other countries that might have higher surface value of salary but the restriction on DH , freedom of travel, how difficult the employer could lodge an application for importing a DH, standard of living in that country (e.g. over 100HKD for a standard McDonald fast food set). All persons are free to go here and there. What is the conclusive choice? How is the market demand and supply?

- Living out has many legislative concern and is banded. If you encounter anyone doing that here, please. Be a responsible journalist, report this to Police or Immigration for by law they are breaching the condition of stay here with custodial sentence and very adverse impact on their future employment here or even migration record to other developed places.

- Which official gave you the wrong figures on minimum wage? As I was in the circle I can help you to clarify or even if you need our service, we can sue one who deliberately present the wrong message with ill attempts.

- How to count the working hours? If there is a robotic life you find. Report this to authorities and help such helpers. If not, how to calculate the cost of living areas, utilities, rent when the DH is not working (in theory it should be counted).

When writing a book, think about the objective, shame on those would widen the misunderstanding of different races and appreciate if the good writer can direct the readers to have a better understanding or better courses of actions after reading from the book.

If not, I would rather throw the book for recycling or recommend not to spend time to write with wasted effort, as in reality, from legal perspective, "reasonable men" will judge on their mind rather than how you repackage the hidden agenda.

Tried of reading so much grievance, save time for a better tomorrow, for own self and for other better beings.

HK employer 5:  This is rather one sided.

$4110 minimum salary.
Accommodation $2000
Food expenses for 3 meals a day say $80
personal hygiene, shampoo, loo paper etc..#200 a month
Laundry say $100 a month
Free medical insurance say $50
No transport costs

and yes, you might grumble she has a tiny room, but 50 percent of people live in public housing.

The reason the maids do not have so much is due to agency loans.
But as someone says, how often do you go work abroad for 10 years and buy a massive house afterwards with a plot of land

My Indonesia helper told me Hong Kong got the highest wages compared with other Asia country. In Taiwan, DH only allows 1 day off for the whole year.

Maid in Hong Kong jailed, claimed she was teaching the kids, July 2015
An Indonesian domestic worker has been given a five-month jail term after she was found guilty of abusing her employers’ children.  Adriana Marsalina, 38, was found guilty of seven counts of child abuse at Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts.

A security camera caught Marsalina hitting her employers’ two children, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, at their home from February 11 to 17.  The court heard that the children had been slapped in the face by Marsalina. The girl was struck 12 times in three days and the boy 14 times.

Helper denied all 7 charges and claimed that she was teaching the kids, as they behaved not well in eating. Defence claimed that the wound is minor and not likely to be repeat offender again as she willnot be allowed to work in HK again.

The court rejected all claims since the victims could not defend themselves and custodial sentence had to serve to reflect the seriousness of the crime as she was only the trusted adult at home to look after the children who warrant appropriate care. Such violence not only disappointed the expectation of employer but also shaded the childhood of innocent kids.

Majority of helpers are good but this case marked the necessity to monitor your helpers especially those newly arrived at your home. Sometimes, taking this as example, they would find ways to finish the job rather then how to get the job done better. Simply because the kids were eating slowly made helpers feel they had to work longer and the innocent kids became the subjects to blame.  This is not about the ethnic as a child minder, but the ethnic about humanity.

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HK maid change employer
Employer: She has only been to HK for three months as a maid for the first time. Unfortunately she was fired two days ago by her boss - she told me that her boss (wife) had a very bad temper and she kept throwing things at her for very small mistakes she made. She worked at my place for half day as trial and she seems nice. I've asked her employer's contact number for reference. Has anyone experienced similar thing before? Her previous boss probably won't say anything nice of her. What shall I do?

Response 1: This is also one of the most popular excuse to let the next employer stop thinking of asking for reference. I believe some of the employers are good and some are bad, of course. If the previous one has bad temper, from the tone and choices of words you can also feel the same. Then you can put aside those bad comments against your potential next helpers. But in many cases, you may learn more about WHY THE PREVIOUS ONE DOESN'T LIKE. Be fair, if the points the ex-employer made is pointless, as I have experienced, I will still go ahead to hire the helper. However, in many other occasions, I also received their comments like....."be good at first and keep talking on phone and do nothing bit by bit", "smoking", "bring others to home".....It is another window for you to judge which side is telling the truth rather than listening to one sided story.

So, if you have the chance, having direct talk is more efficient than reading the standardized praising reference. (if the employer wrote, they should praise as the helper is still working for them....and why wasting the effort to write bad comments as they could opt for not writing any word.) Such talk can also test the authenticity of good writing reference, as in common sense, someone committed to write good reference should have no or at least less negative comments when you talk directly.

And, believe your own feeling and judgment, rather than just listening. Use your eyes and heart to feel. After all, he/she is your helper.

Response 2:  No helper is going to admit that they were fired for their own mistakes.
Beware of the helper who says that the boss has a bad temper.
Employers spend a lot of money on paying agency fees. There has to be a good reason why she was fired.  Also, anyone trying for a job would be on their best behaviour.  Ask the helper to give the boss' telephone number. If she refuses, then you know something is up.  If she says, the boss doesn't want to be contacted, why would it matter, she has already left.

Response 3:  Helpers are poor and in some ways desperate with only 2 weeks after a termination to find a new job. They will say anything to secure a new job, particularly as the deadline for the expiry of their visa approaches. I would be very wary of helpers who give a complete sob story and who refuse for it to be verified.

Sure, a helper will not leave their job if they are happy with it, BUT not all helpers are fit to be a domestic helper, especially as the demands can be extremely varied. Perhaps they don't like their employer not allowing them to chat on the phone all day (happened to me with my first helper in Hong Kong).......I'm talking about being on the phone up to 6 hours a day! Perhaps they have no chemistry with children, are unable to maintain basic hygiene, can not be taught how to cook, have committed crimes, have a bad habit of telling white lies when they make mistakes (cultural problem of people from SE Asia, E Asia to save face and avoid confrontation) ect.

No one is saying don't hire someone with a terminated contract, just talk to the ex employer, and work out whether the problems they had with the helper would be problems for you. Relying on the helper to be 100% fair in recounting why she was terminated in foolhardy to say the least (anyone notice the HUGE conflict of interest). Relying on gut instinct can also be risky when entrusting the care of your home to someone else. At the very least ensure by contacting the ex employer that the helper has not engaged in anything illegal e.g stealing money, forging checks ect.

Response 4: ha ha... some helpers just tell lies and insult the intelligence of the listeners. Actually telling truth would be better as a human being and as the caretaker for the home and children , morally and in common sense.

Sometimes, telling truth would gain more than telling the useless lies.  So, be honest, and be considerate is the key for maintaining good relationship with people, no matter you are employer or employee.

Response 5: The employer being angry..abusive..shouting...crazy are common complains from a Helper who has been terminated or quit their employ. You will hear it from many helpers. Over the years, I have learnt not to fall for that immediately. 
Agree, speak to the employer, you can judge from that if the employer is insane, an angry person or just plain honest. 

My helper is just completing her contract with me and I have refused to sign another 2 years with her. It has been hard putting up with her but I did anyway as I have been too busy with work and my kids are grown.  I have been hearing that my helper speak ill about me now, saying similar stuff that I have been shouting/ angry at her and therefore she will not do a contract with me!!! 

Sadly, it leaves a bitter taste. At the end of 2 years it now has come to this.

Employer: Hi many thanks to all of you who have replied. We took your advise and insisted in talking to her previous employer as a condition of hiring her. We are glad we did... it was a completely different story and the lady has also shown us some photos as proof.. 

Many thanks again and it is true that SPEAK TO THE EMPLOYER is very important.... we were desperate to hire someone and that we felt sorry for her that she was treated badly.

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Indonesian Maids Dust Off The Middle East,AFP  5 May 2015

Indonesia will stop sending new domestic workers to 21 Middle Eastern countries, reports said after the recent execution of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia angered Jakarta.

The ban affects countries including Saudi Arabia — a major destination for Indonesian maids – United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt, and will come into effect in three months’ time, Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri was cited as saying in local media.

Jakarta, which has long complained about the treatment of Indonesian maids in the Middle East, had already placed a moratorium on sending new helpers to Saudi Arabia in 2011 following the beheading of an Indonesian worker. The new move is meant to be permanent. Indonesian maids already working in the affected countries will be allowed to stay and continue in their positions.
Indonesia’s anger at the executions of its citizens abroad comes despite the fact that Jakarta last week executed seven foreign drug convicts, drawing a storm of international protest.

“According to the law, the government has the right to stop the placement of migrant workers in particular countries if it is believed that their employment degrades human values and the dignity of the nation,” Mr Dhakiri was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Antara.
He said there were “many problems” with Indonesians working abroad related to “labour norms and human rights violations”.

Manpower Minister Dhakiri cited the execution of Indonesian domestic workers Siti Zainab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim, who were both put to death for murder just days apart in April.

The foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador to Indonesia after both executions, complaining Jakarta had not been informed beforehand.  Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom’s strict version of Islamic or shariah law.  Mr Dhakiri also said Indonesia will tighten placement of helpers to countries in the Asia-Pacific through measures such as auditing training centres and blacklisting rogue agencies.

President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, vowed in February that Indonesian maids would no longer be sent abroad in future, although he did not mention a date. Previous Indonesian governments have made similar pledges.  As well as the Middle East, Indonesia also sends domestic workers to many parts of Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and has often complained about the treatment of its workers in those countries.

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Philippines wants Filipino maids to be paid the minimum salary of US$400 (S$535/RM1,440).

Employers of Filipino maids are reminded to pay the minimum salary of US$400 (S$535) as stated in the contract signed.  In a statement, the Philippines embassy said employers would now have to pay Filipino maids RM1,440 (S$535) because of the weaker Malaysian ringgit.

"This has been a known agreement for the last 10 years for Filipino maids that their salary is based on US dollars," said Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Jeffrey Foo.  He said many maids had come forward to complain that their employers had not been paying their salary according to the contract, which resulted in the embassy releasing the statement as a reminder to employers.

Foo said business had definitely dropped as employers found it more expensive to hire Filipino maids.  A maid agency director known as Pushpa said it was difficult for her to explain the price fluctuation to customers.  "Customers find it a hefty price to pay for a maid," said Pushpa.  She hoped the Government would intervene and stipulate that Filipino maids be paid in Malaysian ringgit instead of US dollars.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Maid Employers Association president (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said other governments aside from the Philippines had called for salary increments for maids.  "President Jokowi of Indonesia has even urged for the word maid to be changed because it is degrading," said Engku Ahmad Fauzi.

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Aug 2014
Bad maids are everywhere, not just Spore but we cannot stop them.  Activists/MOM and some forums disallow posting of domestic maid's particulars via public pages/forums.  

Reminder: there are too many fortunate people, have not encountered any bad maids so be a silent reader, don’t sprinkle salt on our ‘wound’ as an ACTIVIST!

Ministry of Manpower hasn't been kind to employers. We were strongly advised to treat maids like human beings, show respect to them, don't restrain them, give them freedom, give weekly off days, etc but when bad things happen, employers have to bear the risks and losses. Why so unfair? We were not given the rights to post truly and warn other prospective employers!

Maids are not shameful or guilty about what they did.  According to activist: nothing wrong to find love working as FDW and being at fault eg abusing or hurting us, Maid is just trying to vent her anger, under stress or provoked so Employers cannot jeopardize her re-employment.  You paid MOM, paid your FDW timely and cleared all agency fee but when things didn't go well, who's there to side and fight for you? 

Look at the pro-maid, pro-source country and pro-agency policies that I've highlighted. Existing policies will not make FDWs learn to be good and responsible helpers. Existing policies will not make maid agencies take on some responsibilities and do better FDW sourcing.  Maids continued to be recycled easily and even allowed to receive higher salary (intentionally erase her fault) in other countries.  There are bad employers but why nobody believe there are bad maids too?

A Hong Kong employer asked me whether it is possible meet up the FDW's employer support group in Spore, I said no such group or organisation. We are stranded, MOM has no heart to care for us. Activists can't wait to throw stones at us. When employer tried to post details such as FDW's name, work permit, activists get really worked up and claim that is not right. One blogger by the name of Tamarind seemed to have given in and removed her informative blog. 

"I m an employer from Hong Kong . All the things has mentioned on the above is happening in H.K. for over 10 years. Now today, maids from philippine r very worse as in Singapore. Especially, MFMW or Bethune House r teaching or using them to bully employers by helping them to create criminal cases against. the employer. In order they can extend tourist visa so can shop or fool around in H.K. for free. B4 they leave H.K. usually will have over HKD 60000 loan . from fd, employers or steal money from our family. Many problem maid already working in Singapore. In H.K. employers r collecting / sharing the bad maid info. data also. H.K. government has no help at all!!!! One of the bad maid , she just start working in Singapore n her name is Liezi. She own over HKD 30000 from financial companies. She physically abuse new born baby , after employer found out, she used to.cry n excuse on her own family problem such as family member die on each month!!!"

Hiring Filipino maids in UAE just got tougher, Gulfnews, 23 Jun 2014
Hiring Filipino housemaids has become tougher in the UAE since the introduction of the unified contract for domestic workers in June that ‘clashes’ with policies of that labour-sending country.

Both the UAE and Philippine governments are committed to implementing their contracts designed for hiring maids. Recruiters and families who need to hire house help, however, are caught in the middle since both countries have differing policies.  (Winter:  same happened in Spore.  Philippines behaves like we owe them a living and made a lot of demands, created two contradicting contracts.  Philippines is unable to guarantee its citizen US$400 or half of it yet expect Spore and other countries to agree.  Before allowing its citizen to work abroad, Philippines must earn kopi money, using the excuse of POEA requirement.  How caring and thoughtful!)

The Ministry of Interior introduced the new standard contract for housemaids on June 1 to protect the interests of both housemaids and their employers. Following this, the Ministry of Labour issued a circular stopping embassies of labour-sending countries from verifying or ratifying contracts of domestic workers. It also said employers who wish to sponsor housemaids should not be compelled by embassies to be screened or “to sign any contract pledges by those embassies”.

The move has led to a shortage of maids from the Philippines, which imposes strict measures in maid deployment. The pool of domestic help in the UAE is getting smaller since the Ethiopian government still has a ban in place on its nationals from working in the UAE as maids. The Indonesian government is also currently making changes in its deployment policies, which has affected maid supply.  "Business is dead,” Rodel Gabriel, a consultant at Al Sharq Al Aqsa Labour Supply, told Gulf News. “Some 75 per cent of our deployments are Filipino maids. Because of the confusion over the conflicting policies, no new deployment can be made.”

The Philippine missions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are directly affected because Philippine laws mandate them to verify contracts for housemaids before deployment to ensure that their rights are protected. Without the necessary verification, they cannot deploy housemaids. Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, however, denied any deployment ban.  "We did not issue any deployment ban. Based on Philippine regulations, if no contracts are verified by the Philippine labour offices, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will not process contracts for household service workers bound for the UAE,” Baldoz told Gulf News in a phone interview from Manila.  Baldoz said that their current decision only mirrored the Philippine government’s stance when Saudi Arabia earlier unilaterally suspended contract verification for maids. But despite the lack of a deployment ban, the Philippine Manpower Agencies for the United Arab Emirates based in Manila said they will stop sending Filipino maids to the UAE by July due to the ministry’s new rule, local media reported yesterday.

Verification is part of the Philippine reform programme package that upholds the protection of Filipino maids, including ensuring they get a minimum US$400 (Dh1,469) monthly wage, a minimum age deployment of 23, a weekly off, and no placement fees, among others.

Many countries like Philippines, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have set minimum wage benchmarks for housemaids from their countries working abroad. The minimum salary for maids from Philippines is Dh1,400, India 1,100, Sri Lanka Dh825 and Indonesia Dh800.

An Indian family who recently hired a maid from India said they are in deep trouble because of the new salary specification rules. “We brought her to the UAE on April 22 to take care of our newborn. We were told the visa charges will be Dh5,000. But last week when we applied for her residency visa authorities told us it will cost Dh14,000,” said the young woman who did not want to be named. She said they cannot pay so much and neither can they send the maid home.

Many families said if the increased charges are imposed, it will put them in a tight spot.  “I have had a housemaid for the last five years. If the cost of renewing her visa is going up by two or three times, I have no other option but to send her back to India. That actually means I have to quit my job,” said Sangeetha Mathur, an Indian working woman in Abu Dhabi.

Nihal Rakesh, a businessman, said the new rule will potentially ruin many working women’s careers. “Many women can afford to work because they have maids to take care of their children. Sponsoring a maid is already a complicated and expensive process in the UAE,” said Rakesh.

Japan Offers High-Paying Jobs for OFWs (filipino maid), Philippines News, 16 Apr 2014

Japan, a country four hours away by plane from the Philippines may have the opportunity you are looking for. According to Jeng dela Cruz of Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Japan, the “Land of the Rising Sun” has many available jobs for OFWs.

In an interview with DZMM on Wednesday, dela Cruz pointed out that there are many household workers as well as skilled workers such as engineers in Japan. She emphasized that skilled workers are often directly hired, while others are hired through recruitment agencies duly accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Aside from skilled workers, Japan is also in need of household service workers, drivers, and English teachers.  Salary Range:
Household service workers earn between  P52,000 to P65,000 / S$1490 to $1865) (Winter:  sure or not, teacher earning lesser than maids.  Maids will be lured and find out that they won't be earning so much.... cheated)
Filipino drivers, who are highly favored by Japanese, receive an average of P87,000 / S$2496  (Winter:  sure or not, earn more than a Diploma fresh graduate)
Entry level teachers may receive approximately P65,000 / S$1865.   (Winter: filipino teacher so poor thing?)

Due to Japan’s strict requirements and application process, Japanese visa is considered one of the most difficult to obtain for Filipino tourists. But last year, the country has issued multiple-entry visas to Pinoy tourists.

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Malaysia maid - RM14,000 fee, 25 Dec 2013
Unscrupulous recruitment agencies out to make a quick profit are exploiting Malaysians desperate for domestic help by charging them fees as high as RM14,000 for an Indonesian maid.

This is nearly twice the rate of RM7,800 agency fee fixed by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments.  Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said those desperate for a maid were willing to pay the higher fee demanded by some agencies although it flouted the agreement between the governments.

These agencies are pirates. I believe many of them are either unlicensed or not members of the country’s two main recruitment agency associations.  “Agencies who are members of the Malaysian Asso­ciation of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) and the Malaysian National Association of Employment Agencies (Pikap) are monitored for compliance by the Human Resource Ministry and those who flout the ceiling rate are liable to be blacklisted by the ministry if found guilty,” said Engku Ahmad.

In September, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to lower the fee for Indonesian maids from RM8,000 to RM7,800/ S$3039. Last Thursday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed to allow Papa and its Indonesian counterpart, Asosiasi Perusahaan Jasa Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (Apjati), to work out a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the supply of Indonesian maids to Malaysia, which has dried up.

Indonesian maids are more in demand among Malaysians because the upfront fee for their employment is lower due to the government-to-government agreement to fix agency fees while Filipina maids cost much more to hire as their fees are governed purely by market forces.

Engku Ahmad said that some agencies were also getting away with charging excessive fees as some employers were unaware of the official rate of RM7,800.  “Many have no choice but to pay what the agencies ask for because the lack of a maid for dual income households can seriously affect their productivity at work and their lives in general,” he said, adding that there were now 200,000 Malaysians on the waiting list for maids.

In Ipoh, a maid recruitment agent said that a MoU signed on a business-to-business basis would give agencies a free hand in setting the fees.  “If we can make adjustments to the sum, surely we will do so. Perhaps up to RM10,000 to match the sum we are charging clients to hire a Filipina maid,” she said.  Another agent said, the RM7,800 fee imposed on clients to hire an Indonesian maid was inclusive of three months’ salary.  “It is barely enough to cover our costs and payment to our counterparts in Indonesia,” he added.  

In Kuala Lumpur, an employer said he paid RM14,900/S$5805 to employ an Indonesian maid. This included an agency fee of RM11,000 after a discount of RM300, and RM4,200 in advance salary.  “I had no choice but to pay the amount as I needed a maid urgently,” he said.  

In Penang, working mother-of-three Choi Ji Nee, 40, said she forked out RM12,000 recently to hire an Indonesian maid.  “The amount included agency fees of RM7,800 and payments for flight ticket and passport.  “After all this, I am concerned about how well she can do housework. Worse still, if she runs away, we will not be able to claim anything from the agency,” said Choi.

In Johor Baru, an agent with an office in Taman Pelangi said that most Malaysians were willing to pay more than RM8,000 to hire Indonesian maids as they were in dire need of domestic help.  

Salary RM$700 = S$273
Winter: Spore is paying double.  Fresh/no experience Filipino gets a minimum S$500 with off days, Indonesian/Myanmar/Cambodia are getting S$450.

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Foreign maids ditch Malaysia, 26 Aug 2013
Despite the high demand here, recruitment agencies have been forced to switch their business or close shop due to the dwindling supply of workers from neighbouring Asian nations, Singapore’s Straits Times (ST) reported today.

The exorbitant cost of recruiting workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, a Cambodian ban on its people working as domestic helpers and language barriers with Sri Lankans and Vietnamese have hobbled the industry’s growth, the republic’s newspaper reported.

“My colleagues are opening spas and restaurants to stay in business,” Fiona Low, a 20-year veteran at the Sri Nadin maid recruiting agency here, told ST.  There are fewer than 200 active maid recruitment agencies now, according to data from the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maids Agencies, compared to 380 in service before June 2009, when Jakarta imposed a ban on sending its people here to work as maids.

And Malaysia’s domestic helper industry, which used to rake in an annual turnover of RM300 million, has shrunk to nearly half its yearly value at RM160 million, the paper reported, citing data from the Malaysia National Association of Employment Agencies.

Part of the reason appears to less than attractive salaries available here, compared to the pay offered by employers elsewhere, especially in the Far East.  For Indonesians, it is more lucrative to work as a maid in Hong Kong and Taiwan where the average monthly wage is the equivalent of RM2,292/S$893, or in Singapore where they draw an average of RM1,200/S$468.

By contrast, the average monthly salary for Indonesian maids in Malaysia remain at around RM700, despite the RM900/S$351 floor wage policy set by Putrajaya after Jakarta lifted the ban in 2011.  Indonesian maids had formed nearly 90 per cent of the industry’s workers before the 2009 moratorium here and remain the most popular supplier of domestic workers to Malaysia due to similar language and other cultural habits.

Last year, 238,000 Indonesians left home to work as maids abroad compared to some 451,000 in 2010, ST reported in a separate article.  As Indonesia’s economy improves, fewer seem inclined to seek job prospects abroad in menial labour, the paper reported.

“The pay is greater overseas but living costs are also higher.
“More and more people prefer to stay and work with less risk and near families,” Indonesia’s Manpower and Transmigration Ministry spokesman Suhartono was quoted as saying.

Closer to home, Malaysians have been compelled to turn to childcare care centres and part-time cleaners to run their households as foreign live-in maids opt out of the country.  As a result, part-time cleaning services and childcare centres have experienced a boom even after Indonesia lifted its moratorium on maids.

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OFWs In Canada Oppose ‘Forced Remittance Bill’,  20 Mar 2014

Overseas Filipino Workers in Canada joined other OFWs from other parts of the world in opposing a House of Representatives bill seeking to make remittance mandatory, and failure to comply could mean non-renewal of  passport.

Canada-based OFWs said the “forced remittance bill” is not beneficial and a burden to OFWs.  Based on the pending bill, if a dependent back home would complain that an OFW is not remitting money, the passport of the erring OFW would not be renewed.   But OFWs in Toronto are up in arms against the pending bill, especially at a time when they are having difficulty with the minimum wage of $10.25/S$11.76, which is below the poverty line.   (Winter: is this OFW/filipino maid's minimum daily salary rate? If working 9 hours daily, 26 days/mth = S$2752.  Thought places like Canada are good 'escapees' for experience maids to dig gold?  $2752 still considered low/poverty pay in prideful maids' eyes?  This salary includes live-in costs like Spore?)  

“Kung matutuloy po yung forced remittance for OFWs, it will be a big burden for OFWs. Kasi po dito sa abroad, ‘di naman  namin [basta]  pinupulot yung pera,” OFW Charity Francia told ABS-CBN Filipino Channel in Canada.  Migrante’s Jonathan Canchela for his part called on other OFWs around the world to also oppose the pending bill.

The OFWs said they are willing to bring their cause to the streets until the bill is scrapped. Despite the opposition to his bill, Señeres stood firm, insisting his proposal would offer more good than harm.

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2 Sep 2013
Hong Kong Finds New Maids, 20 August 2013, Asia Sentinel
With Indonesians, like Filipinas, having become too aware of their rights, HK turns to Bangladesh. Hong Kong recently began recruiting domestic helpers (maids) from Bangladesh, supposedly as a goodwill gesture towards the poor South Asian nation. To many, however, it is an effort to keep down wages and find a source of maids even less liable to complain than Indonesians, who had already overtaken Filipinas by number. They were considered to be less educated and thus less conscious of their theoretical rights and more willing to accept wages and working hours and conditions less than those stipulated as minimums by the government.

In practice the government, run by officials, many with deeply ingrained racial prejudices against brown Asians (the only ones permitted to be maids) makes almost no effort to enforce its own laws. Those who complain quickly find themselves jobless and with only a very short time to find new employment before being forced to leave Hong Kong. Apart from the low wages, widespread abuse is also made of laws which supposedly guarantee time off, a minimum of private living space, outlaw confiscation of travel documents and require adequate provision of medical treatment, etc.

Just what sort of attitudes the Bangladeshis can actually expect was indicated by the South China Morning Post of August 19 - a paper whose own once-large South Asian editorial team has been ethnically cleansed and mostly replaced by Chinese with lower standards of English. The paper ran the banner headline "Bangladesh maids settle into city life," carrying a long story quoting a maid and her employer who gushed about how nice the other was, the employer suggesting the maid worked too hard and did not want the stipulated day off. In a separate story by another reporter, another smiling maid was interviewed and quoted elsewhere in the paper as saying "Hong Kongers are quite nice. I feel I am quite lucky".

Both stories were clearly planted by Technic Employment Service Centre, which recruited the two maids. The attitude of the reporter for the main story, Phila Siu, was well summed up by its opening paragraph: "Frustrated with hiring domestic helpers who didn't work out, one Hong Konger took a keen interest in the news the city would bring in maids from Bangladesh."

In other words, maids from the Philippines and Indonesia were becoming too demanding of even a fraction of their rights not to be cheated and abused by local employers. Instead of following up the myriad stories of maid abuse, the SCMP has become the mouthpiece for the recruitment industry and employers looking for ever more abject and obsequious servants.

Winter: I saw above and just want to highlight that the situation in Hong Kong is quite similar to Spore. We really need a good government to set things right. Knowing source countries and agencies are so hungry for money, treating their own people like money making machines, somebody (the host country) has to put a stop. We shouldn’t be allowing source countries and agencies to quote any fee they like but the ‘product’ received is defective or not functioning well. The Lemon Law doesn’t cover Foreign Domestic Workers. Yes, we all know Spore is a nanny state, haven 温床 for lousy FDWs but there is nothing employers can do to strike a fairer deal.

Every maid is a willing party so don’t insult their intelligence and ability to compare the costs to remain in home country vs salary and benefits by accepting a FDW/FDH job. We also know that the money both employers and maids paid as placement and agency fee is ridiculous. Simply too high and not justifiable. If maids are not using 7 or 8 months salary to pay maid agencies, wouldn't it make maids work better and feel better? Why placement fee cannot be capped at 3 months? Why maids are forced to pay for in-house training (part of placement fee) in source country yet stepped into our house like sotong or know nothing? Why can't such irrelevant training or falsified cost be scrapped? Why maid agency fee cannot be capped at one month of maid's salary?

Some people die-die must proclaim maids are underpaid so how much is viewed as reasonable? If the source country has brain washed its maids to be greedy/demanding, why can't we have other 'poorer' countries as source country? If source countries are quite well off, means by sending their citizens out to work overseas, they don't see an increment of 100 to 150% in income, then it is correct to say they are underpaid. Staying in home country, the maids probably earn only S$200 but she gets to stay close to her beloved family and friends. If the current pay package is considered bad, why come to Spore or Hong Kong? If salary is so low, then why there are so many still going to HK or flying to Spore? Should live-in maids be paid similar to western income earners? Isn’t that too much to ask for? Is the living standard in both countries same? Is it right to compare strawberries with apples? Which rotten school teach you this is the right way to make an accurate comparison?
I like the following comments:

Malka: At the heart of it all, to me: Workers migrating in search of a better life is part of the human DNA and what makes us today - adapt and learn, improve, use your brains to solve problems. I understand that many maids come from impoverished areas, are ill-prepared to deal with the market system and being so desperate, they'd do anything, often ending up in the hands of unscrupulous agents/scalpers.

The HK govt can't be blamed for such entrants into the maid market, who then fall into a cycle of problematical employment relationships (exploitation being the catch-all phrase.

Couldn't the home govt set up services to educate, initiate and track the well-being of their citizens? The income generated by such workers will pay for it. Oh I know, there is the not-too-insignificant matter of corruption and are they really motivated to help their own poor citizens? There really is a limit to a 'nanny' state.

Although one might argue that govt. sponsored programs such HK's, with their conditions/restrictions on wages living conditions, residency, etc. are not equivalent/fair when compared to other workers, the maid is ultimately a willing participant, she can get immediate income and a chance to improve her marketability.

Don't forget any of these maids can apply to come to HK on their own merits if they don't wish to be 'exploited' under the FDH program. My feeling is that the Sentinel article is less principle than politics - i.e. groups protecting their turf.

1. living with employer saves maid on rental (again, part of contract - don't like it don't sign, then again, in reality, both parties agree to break contract by maid living out). Transport cost and time zero.
2. take home leave and out of HK every 2 yrs
3. C'mon - In reality, many are not continuously 'working' during the 12 hr period. A maid's schedule has to meet the family's - kids wake up early, need to be prepped for school, then are out till 3 pm, then cook dinner, etc. Many maids I know take a few hours off in the middle of the day, or take it easy. If they don't like the set up, they shouldn't sign on.

Are we going to insult their intelligence and ability to compare the costs and benefits of staying at home vs coming to HK (and other countries) to work? On the contrary, because their culture is open, sharing of information and analyses, I find most are fairly clear about what they want, usually with a good dose of humour.

Don't fault the system because it is a pretty good one - find ways to teach the 'babes in the woods' coming into an adult world how to manage. We all do what is needed to advance our career and life goals - long hours, unreasonable demands, etc. and only each can say where to draw the line.

As I said, find ways to educate and support such workers from all angles - home govt, ngos, HK govt, church etc - this has always been the way. Finally, accept that some people may be unsuited to working life, just as there are limits to a person's ability to handle life for whatever reason - these are a small minority and their examples however sad, are aside the main issues.

Marilag: everything are set by the government only the agency violated it.. like the agency in Hong Kong they are not supposed to charge the helper more than 10% of their first month salary, same as the Philippines agency .. but because the Phil. govt now stricted with no placement fee policy .. agency in hongkong looks for other alternative like to hire Bangladeshi.. and about helper working condition listed in immigration policy.. helper must entitled to have a 8 hours rest with 24 hours and most of the employer didn't follow it.. .. if the helper get up early because she need to attain the need of her ward or employer .. she is entitled a couple of hours in noon time to rest if she retired late in the evening.. but most employer let their helper work every single cent for the salary they paid for here.

Punter: I have a helper. It makes my family "operate" smoothly. I pay her correctly and on time. In general, she has a tolerable life here in HK. I hope that she saves enough money that when she decides to go home, she has enough so that she doesn't have to come back. I agree that helpers have a choice not to come here. I agree that working here as helpers is actually better for most of them than staying in their home countries without jobs, or in jobs that are very low paying even in their 3rd world home countries' standards.

Hkwatcher: HK is taking advantage of "diaspora" to solve its own problem of not having a 40 hr a week work limit. Those who come here are dreaming of making a better life back home where the money they earn goes waaay farther than here in our inflated economy.
The problem in MHO is when the governments put themselves into this equation. For example, the Phil has instituted a ZERO placement policy for hiring a Filipino. The ER bears the full burden of the cost. So if the girl quits they are out all that money again.
Why not make it bearable for everyone by charging flat fees to girls...say one month’s salary for each of the employee and employer plus the fixed costs under the terms of the contract? This is too simple for the bureaucratic minds of both HK AND Phil to get their tiny minds around. Then if the agencies don't comply, they are fined and or closed. Done and dusted...

Ranti: That article was pretty smug and neglected to look at both sides. Sure there are people whom abuse the system and do not follow the laws etc. They should be punished. Keep in mind that the respective governments of the countries whom the helpers come from are complicit in all of this. Ever heard of corruption? Agencies are made to follow rules put in place by consulates and no doubt there is some funny business going on at that level.

If anything, I applaud the HK govt for at least setting some rules for helpers once they get here and sign contracts. Paying 7 months or whatever to get hired is no doubt taking advantage of the helpers. Who gets this money? Agents and...............surprise surprise - the corrupt government staff of the countries the helpers come from.

If you hire a helper, then do what's right and treat them with respect and fairness. No more, no less. HK is not perfect, but the growth in helpers coming here indicates that it's not as bad as The Sentinel is painting it to be.

Malka: The Phils govt foreign maid policy is not a HK govt issue is it? If they wish to gain more out of it, they have to face the consequences. Marilag's account gives a good picture of the fears of someone in her shoes FOB (fresh off the boat).
She said the Phils agency originally is the culprit, charging very high fees and it is the rule to use the same agency - whatever, it is still 10%; though challenging can mean a lot of problems for the maids, so must be solved.
Sentinel should perhaps be more active in lobbying the Phils govt to ensure reasonable fees. Beyond that, every worker does make their own calculation whether to go out or not. I don't agree on legislation about 40 hr work week - it won't solve the problem neither for HK nor maids. Take Europe, especially France, all the pro-worker legislation making it harder for markets to solve problems - are the workers better off?

Hkwatcher: The laws regulating the charges or fees are set by the government Not the industry itself. Because of corruption and an inability (or distaste for) enforcing the regulations I am sorry but I DO lay this at the door of the govt. I am simply suggesting that something that is measurable and realistic for both sides AND the agencies (who many blame for all the problems) have the bar clearly set and be made accountable. Receipts and reporting if necessary.

Re 40 hour work week is my way of saying that HK has few boundaries and little compassion for families with children. With a small child attending school and high and higher rents requiring two incomes. Unless one has an extended family living here in HK to offer support. HK does not provide much in the way of childcare, then what is the average person to do?

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10 Apr
Extracted these from a Hongkong forum:
As a domestic helper, her words are fair. There are bad helpers and good helpers, be it in Spore or Hong Kong.  When you are too nice to your maids, it could spoil and make them a worsen person. Those who know how to appreciate good employers will remain good and do an even better job ... but how many FDWs do not take things for granted, know how to count their blessings?

Yes, there are bad Sg employers but they get punished and their names were publicised. What about those who are good but were poorly treated by their ungrateful FDWs?  Who came forward to seek justice for such employers?  Who is there to punish bad maids and agencies?  Nobody!

For those FDWs looking forward to work in HK, you need to know not all HK employers are angels, there could be bad ones who make you work long hours, provide insufficient food, make you sleep with 7 cats (my ex-HK filipino said so), etc.  They are still humans, like you, imperfect!  Also, you need to pay agency a fee to fly over. 

Whether in HK or Taiwan, you are a paid worker, not a slave even though your employer didn't give your 8 hours continuous rest each day.  Not happy?  Voice out, feedback truthfully to your agent or discuss with your employer.  Don't give lame excuses or use actions (eg banging tables, act forgetful)/body language to let your employer guess.  Don't pretend you are an easy going and co-operative person by saying 'Yes' or 'ok, mam' to everything and then don't deliver it to show your discontentment.  

Direct-hire filipino, to work in Hong Kong cost about HK$4000, ie only S$630 ... so cheap!  I was quoted S$2208 for direct hire to Sg, before hiring JA.  
DH agency fee is HK$50k, ie only S$1500 ... lesser than what most agencies are charging the FDWs.

What employers should do when you have hired a thief?  Police and MOM will not believe you based on your word.  Get evidence and witness, eg police. 

HK employer harassed to pay for DH.  DH employers in Hongkong are not required to help pay maid's placement fee/loan.  It is Spore that is trying to make us suffer by allowing agencies to get employers pay for maids and deduct from their physical employment, with a term of no salary for 7-8 months (FDWs thought they are unpaid for their services and employers are cheating them).  If FDWs can't work 2 years, we (low to middle income employers) are the ones to suffer more than any of you!

All the while, I thought HK employer must send the DH home if she is not keen to work for her or found unsuitable.  I wish I can have a FDW who is so sensible like Marilyn.  

I hope my blog and frustrations with FDWs, did try to help some employers from getting ripped off by smart & scheming maids, knowing all the tricks in Sg, loopholes and about being lobbied by MOM and activists. This is a blog that is viewable by everybody, including net savvy FDWs, thus, they can also learn more to manage employers!

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9 Apr - Happened to read this.  Was posted in year 2011.
Poster said her close relative who had a foreign maid for many years. She is a Filipino who came to Singapore with zero experience. Her relative taught her how to cook and clean. She became a really good domestic helper and cook.

"After 8 years, she decided to quit and go to work in Hong Kong, assuming she can get much higher pay. After 3 months in Hong Kong, she called my relative to ask if she could return to work for her.

Upon her return, she told my relative that she lied to her Hong Kong employer that her mother was very ill, she needed to return to the Philippines. And, she left all her winter clothes behind to give the impression that she was returning to Hong Kong. She also said that on her off days, her Hong Kong employer expected her to stay out of the house and no dinner would be provided. And, she had to buy her own toiletries.

In Singapore, my relative would keep dinner for her on her off days; buy her toiletries and clothes in her regular shopping trips.

Sadly, Singapore has become a training ground for inexperienced maids. Once they gained 2 years experience, they jump ship to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan for higher pay. Now, Singapore employers have to pay even higher salary for inexperienced maids to compete with Hong Kong/Taiwan!"

Winter: It is true that maids are paid more in Hong Kong but the working and living conditions are far tougher, the employers expectations are much higher.  How many can survive if FDWs had been over pampered in Spore and too well protected by MOM's policies?   No maid will tell you she has been pampered in Spore but her actions will show, her words and comparision are the best proof! Throw her to a demanding employer and let her be awakened, read above again or browse the net and search yourself! 

There are good and bad people.  Nobody is perfect because we are human beings.  But to be a better human being (employee/FDW/DH), you can if you want to!  You can change to fit the requirements of your employer if you need that not-too-bad job.  It makes both parties have a better life if both are clear on what you wanted. 

I am a person who believe we must be transparent, don't lie to get a job and treat my house/my girl as toy.  What my FDW need to do in my house, she has to know during interviews.  My only mistake is I didn't ask FDW to write down her committment and what she understand, the job scope that I have illustrated and her expectations.  FDW will say 'OK' to everything that you said during interviews, how OK is OK, you'll know when she joins your household. 

My advice to employers looking for transfer maids, ask them to write in English, don't write for her and ask her to sign because she is very likely to say didn't see, don't understand or don't know what she has signed!  Also, she might get you mixed up with other prospective employer's requirements.  Even with a native agent to translate, my FDWs can still claim don't know .... this is extremely frustrating.  To me, she is a liar, a great pretender!  Having a black and white is your best protection. 

There may be a lot of good employers but in order to protect themselves, they are labelled as BAD.  Bad doesn't mean the maid is abused or ill-treated by employer, it means maid didn't get the 'sweets' that she wanted eg a better life - short working hours, high salary, plenty 'official time-off' during working hours, at the expense of employers.  As long as you didn't give in or match maid's expectations, you're very likely to be tagged BAD or lousy employer.

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22 Jan
My current Indonesian FDW who has 'survived' only one month in Hong Kong fed me some new info. 

Indonesians who fly to HK work as FDH are not required to give a lump sum payment, in advance to maid agency (Sg maid agencies made employers pay for their FDWs in advance so that agencies have no follow-up and admin work).   Her agency charged her for every month that she worked.  Which means, she only gave agency one month HK salary.  If she continued to stay, she'll have to pay agency 7 months HK salary.  Said she looked forward to go back to HK but getting re-employed is not as easy as coming to Spore.  She wanted to have off days from her first month and doesn't like the standard practice of FDWs must complete loan before enjoying weekly off days.  In HK, she was able to use mobile phone to log into her Facebook account.

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20 Dec 2012 
My ex-filipino helper, J managed to survive 10 months in Hong Kong.  J claimed her employers made her share a bedroom with 7 cats!  Told me Hong Kong FDHs were given weekly off days and statutory holidays off.  The expenses incurred during her non-working days were high.  Salary looked high but if weekly off days were taken, it was unsustainable, don't have much money left to send home.  Claimed that accommodation for FDHs were unsatisfactory.  Some employers do not provide accommodation so the salary FDHs received, included finding a place to stay.  Employment terms were not as great as Singapore.

FDHs are not allowed to be transferred to other employers in HK.  If they are fired or decide to terminate employment, FDHs have to buy own air ticket home.  J felt coming to Spore to work is much better than HK.  After completing 22 months with me, she job-hopped to another Spore employer.  She shot me before getting a transfer out. 
My current Indonesian FDW claimed she couldn’t continue working in Hong Kong because her employers made her work for 3 houses.  She was in HK for only one month!

I asked her what time she woke up and went to bed everyday, M told me she woke up around 6 am and was able to sleep around 9 pm.  I thought she left HK, a dreamland for FDWs because she was overworked or exploited.  Based on the time she gets to rest, I don’t think she told me the truth.  Very likely she was fired due to her poor performance and bad English.  HK employers set very high standards, interested to hire FDHs with working experience in Spore and will allow FDHs who really can work well to stay.  Low quality FDHs will be fired and not allowed to be recycled in HK.  The FDHs got to pull their socks up and cannot laze around in order to remain in HK.

FDWs with Hong Kong experience are flying back to Spore, what does this means?
Spore is a safe and perfect haven for FDWs.  Bad, rejected by HK .... our MOM and activists welcome you to work here and bully Spore employers.

In Hong Kong and Taiwan, foreign domestic helpers (FDH) must fully pay for their loan before they could leave their home country. There's no such thing as employer made to pay upfront maid loan.  FDHs probably taken up loans from banks, friends or relatives so they had no choice but to work hard and pay back.  FDHs knew they are fully responsible for their own actions and every wrong decisions.  

Hong Kong employers offered high salary and weekly off days on appearance but how much are FDHs protected?  How much money does each FDH send home?  In Spore, FDW's take home pay, if she doesn't spend on mobile phone or luxury, she can actually have a take home pay of at least S$400 ie, whatever base salary the employer agreed to pay her monthly.  FDWs' live-in costs are fully covered by respective employers. 

No matter how bad/errant the maids are, MOM and activists such as HOME, MWC, TWC tend to feel sorry for them and very willing to help.  We have seen on news, they don't mind waste time to help those FDWs who claimed abused, molested or ill-treated by employers.  MOM and activists chose to believe FDWs' stories 101% and only willing to spend 1% or zero time to hear employers.  Employers looked like devils!  Nobody, especially non-FDW employer, wants to believe we are being exploited and bullied.

Do you know some FDWs who claimed ill-treated and not given enough food were actually their own doings?  They only want to eat food they are familiar with.  Refused to touch mee, pasta, porridge or bread.   Some are too pampered!  They are only keen to eat good and expensive food.  Flown into Spore to sponge on employers, enjoy life as much as possible and uninterested to carry out their duties as FDWs.  One of my friends new FDW poured away porridge or simply throw food away and told neighbours her employers didn't give her food, she's starving, asked them to pity her and give her food!

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This blog is not meant for screw-lose activists or loans. My blog aims to gather all FDWs' news scattered everywhere, become a one-stop site for mentally & financially bullied FDWs' employer to beware and learn. Don't pollute this blog with your pro-maid, insensible and selfish comments! Activists posting here are BLIND IDIOTS, IRRITATING freaks and deliberately showing no RESPECT for others... robbing our only breathing space.