This May 14, 2013 photo shows fresh domestic helpers in Hong Kong (from left) Aongmapolle Marma, Paiching Marma, Murnn Har, Sarmen Akter Rima, Rokeya Akter and Hlanu Marma, with Bangladeshi consul general Mohammad Sarwar Mahmood. Photo courtesy: South China Morning Post
Just a small section of the 5,000 Bangladeshi maids who had been expected to take jobs in Hong Kong under a deal struck last year have arrived – with many put off by reports of mistreatment and abuse, according to a top English language daily of Hong Kong.
One in five of the 270 Bangladeshis who had taken jobs in the city since May were back home already, South China Morning Post reported today referring to the South Asian country’s top diplomat in Hong Kong.
However, Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain claimed that only 20 females had returned while the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) dg Begum Shamsun Nahar mentioned the figure around 26.
He also denied the allegation of the abuse and mentioned a ‘conflict’ behind the workers’ return.
The HK daily however mentioned that and such is the concern about abuse that Dhaka last year sent inspectors to make checks.
The development again puts the spotlight on working conditions for Hong Kong maids in the wake of a recent abuse case.
It also casts doubt on the ability of Bangladesh to fill the hole left by a shortage of Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers, who account for 98 percent of Hong Kong’s maids.
Last week an employer was arrested accused of hitting and pulling the hair of her Bangladeshi helper. Also last week, the former employer of Indonesian Erwiana Sulistyaningsih appeared in court charged with abusing her and two other maids, according to the South China Morning Post report.
When the two governments agreed in April to allow Bangladeshi helpers in Hong Kong, it was hailed as a way to help the impoverished South Asian country and fulfill the needs of Hong Kong families.
Employment agencies expected 5,000 Bangladeshis to arrive in the first year. But Bangladeshi Consul General Mohammad Sarwar Mahmood said some 20 percent of recruits had returned home, said the report.
“Some have left voluntarily or – on a case-by-case basis – their contract has been terminated,” the report quotes him as saying. But, he added, he was generally “happy” with the treatment of Bangladeshi maids.
“People are very much conscious [of the abuse risk] … and they are very much aware, which means not all people are interested [in being a maid],” the consul said.
“We are also trying to go slow ... to ensure our helpers’ rights are duly protected, and we want to monitor their welfare.”
Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Centre, the biggest agency dealing with Bangladeshi maids, said the helpers found work very hard because of “too much pressure” from employers.
“They have already proved to be a failure because families in Hong Kong have difficulties in getting used to Bangladeshi people for many reasons,” said Joseph Law, chairman of the Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association.
He cited culture and education as factors.
Cheung Kit-man, chairman of the Employment Agencies Association, expects employees from Myanmar to fill the gap.
“Employers prefer Myanmar maids because 80 percent of the population is Buddhist and they can speak a little bit of English, compared with Bangladesh, where most are Muslim,” he said.