Filipina maids' dilemma in China

By Fan Junmei
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 6, 2016
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Filipina maids in China are struggling to make a living while suffering homesickness because they cannot go home freely due to their illegal status in the country.

Lisa cooks Chinese food for her employer. [Beijing Youth Daily]

Lisa cooks Chinese food for her employer. [Beijing Youth Daily]

Although China bans individuals from hiring overseas maids, it is not rare to see foreign faces in Beijing's domestic service market, many from the Philippines, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

They managed to get round the regulations by obtaining a business visa instead of a work visa with the help of agencies.

Filipina maid, a synonym for high-end service

In the domestic service market, Filipina maids are quite popular for being better trained and more professional.

Many agencies demand that most of their contracted Filipina maids have a bachelor degree or above, and are able to provide high-quality service after receiving professional domestic service training. Thus, "Filipina maid" has become a synonym for high-end service.

A one-time fee of 79,000 yuan (US$12,008) has to be paid to employ a Filipina maid, covering brokerage and fees for transportation, visa application and custom clearance.

The agencies usually take a brokerage fee from both the maid and the employer, and get commissions via receiving payment on behalf of the maid in the first six months of the contract. The total brokerage amount can range from 7,500 yuan (US$1,140) to 40,000 yuan(US$6,080), according to industry insiders.

In Beijing, a common Filipina maid can get 6,000 yuan (US$912) per month; those well experienced or being bilingual can get 7,500 yuan (US$1,140). And the ones dubbed "golden maids" can receive up to 8,000 yuan (US$1,216) every month.

Lisa, a 56-year-old maid from the Philippines, had been working in Beijing for five years. Sadly, she couldn't go home these years because she didn't possess a valid visa.

"Back at home, I have my mother, my husband, and two sons. Both are unmarried yet, one is 30 years old, and the other is 29," She told Beijing Youth Daily. Her husband didn't have a job and the whole family was dependent on her.

Homesick, Lisa calls them every day while off duty and sends most of her salary back home.

Specialized in nursing puerperae and infants, Lisa majored in "maid services" at a Filipina college. She ranks high due to her 14 years of working experience in Hong Kong where she could get a legal work visa.

Lisa said she used to return to the Philippines during holidays and the transportation charges were covered by her employers. But she decided to come to Beijing after hearing her friends were earning a much higher salary in the metropolis.

However, the laws in the Chinese mainland don't allow foreign low-end labor to work as nannies or maids. In the first two years, domestic service agency got Lisa a business visa and renewed it every half year. Then, she suffered an accident and was not able to get it renewed, becoming "black" or unregistered since then.

"Black" maids favored, rights risked

Filipina maids in the Chinese mainland usually hold a business visa which requires to be renewed every six months. Most of them are registered as translators or foreign language teachers in foreign enterprises.

Unregistered and inexperienced Filipina maids are very popular because without a valid visa, the employer can pay her less without worrying she may run away.

As for the rights of the maids, the contracts usually only stipulate that the employer should not open the employee's letter, withhold her personal items or show disrespect for her religious beliefs; the employee can ask the agency for help if abused by the employer.

Thirty-eight-year-old Mary is a "black" Filipina maid. She used to make 3,380 yuan (US$513) per month in Hong Kong. When she came to Beijing, her employer promised to pay her 6,000 yuan (US$912) per month after she had worked satisfactorily for one year. "But the employer didn't keep the promise. Then, I threatened to leave and work for others," recalled Mary.

"My employer got angry and drove me away without giving me my visa. That's how I became 'black'," she said.

Filipina maids cannot leave China without a valid visa. Even the ones holding a business visa must not refer themselves as a nanny or maid while checking out. "Once found out, they would be sent back to the Philippines, and the Chinese employer would be fined 20,000 yuan (US$3,040)," an agent explained.

Lisa didn't gossip - like the Chinese nannies previously hired by her employer Wang Fang, a stay-at-home mother, who said the maid was quite capable and diligent.

"But no matter how reassuring she is, I have to pay a close attention to her whereabouts in case she goes back to the Philippines without notice." She kept Lisa's passport and visa and only hands them over temporarily when they were needed for business visa application.

Han Xiao, a lawyer from Beijing Jingrun & Partners Law Firm, noted that the contract between a foreigner domestic worker and a Chinese employer is illegal and invalid in the Chinese mainland, which means both sides' rights and interests are unprotected.

Due to homesickness, Lisa finally made her mind up to return to the Philippines and spend some time with her family, despite the dim prospect that she would be jobless in her own country.

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