The number of Filipino maids has risen sharply in Beijing recently. Although they are not legally allowed to work in China, that has not deterred local expats and wealthy Chinese families from taking the risk of employing one.

More housekeeping agencies have started to develop this “under the table” business to take advantage of the lucrative market.

But without an effective system for supervision, experts warn that the local Filipino maid market may eventually spin out of control.

Filipinos as Perfect Maids

“When I’m looking for a maid, I want someone who knows how to iron, separate whites from colored (clothes), beautify houses … and most importantly, she must be well educated and speak good English to create an English environment for my 8-year-old daughter at home,” said Chen Fengyu, a department manager who works for a US-based company.

The 38-year-old Chen is considering hiring a Filipino maid because of their “good reputation” worldwide.

“High quality is my first consideration, money is not a problem,” Chen added.

Finding a Filipino maid is not difficult for Chen. She just searched “Filipino maid” online and found many choices.

“There are so many housekeeping agencies here, but I only considered big agencies to avoid swindlers,” Chen said.

She said some agencies have already emailed her candidates and promised to arrange online interviews.

“They told me I could interview all the candidates until I found someone I was satisfied with, and they would soon arrange that person to come from the Philippines to work for me,” Chen said.

One agency wanted to charge her 9,000 yuan for the procedure, including the maid’s half-year visa fee, air ticket and commission, Chen said. This was on top of the maid’s monthly salary of 3,500 yuan.

“That agency told me there is no risk in hiring a Filipino. The government loosened its control after the Beijing Olympics,” Chen said.

“No domestic maid can match a Filipino,” said Ma Yixuan, who employed a Filipino maid for years, adding that it’s very worthwhile to employ a Filipino because they speak fluent English, are professional about chores and have a cheerful temperament and superior nanny skills.

Mecca of Filipino Maids

As opposed to the mature Filipino maid markets in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, the market in Beijing was slow to get started.

According to a veteran in the household service industry who asked to be called Wang, Beijing’s Filipino maid business began in 2000 and was met with a chilly reception.

Wang said high commissions, complicated procedures, differing cultural backgrounds and communication barriers were the main barriers stopping Filipino maids from gaining a foothold in Beijing at that time.

“But people’s concept has changed over time,” Wang said. “More local middle class families have become interested in Filipino maids.”

Wang added that there are mainly three types of Chinese families willing to employ Filipino maids: those who want better household services; those who want their children to communicate with foreigners to improve their English; and those who want to show off their social status by employing a foreigner.

More maids have begun to view Beijing as an ideal working destination, Wang said.

Although there are no official figures of how many Filipino maids work in Beijing, Wang said he thinks the number is in the thousands.

Many Filipinos he meets initially hold the out-of-date impression that Beijing doesn’t have as many rich families as Hong Kong or Macao, Wang said. But when they come to Beijing and see their employer’s luxury items and big houses, they immediately change their minds. As a result, many contact friends back home to tell them about the opportunities in Beijing.

“And the employers in Beijing are less picky than those in Hong Kong, which is another thing that appeals to the workers,” Wang said.

Figures from the Philippines government last year show mainland China has become the top destination for Filipino maids seeking work overseas. [vc_single_image image=”6055″ image_size=”full” frame=”noframe” full_width=”no” lightbox=”no” link_target=”_self” shadow=”no” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]

Two illegal Filipino maids in Hubei Province were deported after police discovered their illegal status.

Under-the-Table Business

Beijing Today called four local housekeeping agencies and found that Filipino maids cost somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 yuan a month, depending on the maid’s education background and working experience. Most of the agencies provide online interviews and promise the maids can be ready within a month. Some agencies even offer face-to-face interviews with clients within two days.

However, all these proceedings can only be carried out discreetly. Currently, foreigners are prohibited from providing household services on the mainland, so Filipino maids have to go through illegal channels.

A telephone operator from Manqijia Filipino Service Center who calls herself Jiang said the maids enter Beijing on travel or business visas, secured through housekeeping agencies, then work illegally.

Once inside the country, companies that specialize in visa services can help Filipino workers renew their expired visas without flying back to their country, Jiang said.

Mangy agencies also provide tips to employers on how to avoid trouble from the police.

“The maid needs to avoid being alone outside for long periods of time,” Jiang said. “If police come to your house and they’ve heard you have a Filipino maid, just insist the ‘maid’ is one of your relatives or friends and call us immediately.”

“We have ways to solve the issue,” she said.

An official from the Beijing Police Bureau said all Filipino maids who are in Beijing illegally will be deported if they are caught. The employer will also get fined. The official said the police bureau has established a special team to seek out illegal maids in Beijing.

According to China’s laws governing the entry and exit of aliens, illegally employed aliens face a fine of up to 1,000 yuan in addition to deportation.

The police official did not disclose how many Filipino maids have been caught so far.

The Filipino embassy refused to comment.

Chaotic Market Leads to Problems

While more Filipino maids are being hired, experts warn that engaging in working relationships without proper supervision and regulations can be risky.

“Once any dispute occurs, such as maids being abused or employers having property stolen, neither side will be able to get any legal protection and both sides will get punished,” said Yin Fuqiang, a lawyer from Beijing Longan Law Firm.

Yin said Hong Kong has clear regulations about the management of Filipino maids, and that minimum wages and rights are set in writing.

Without such a clear system on the mainland, the market will be disordered when more illegal maids come, Yin said.

Problems have already appeared. Some Filipinos who come actually have no experience doing housework. They are called “Filipino farmers,” and they aren’t discovered by local hiring agencies until it’s too late – usually when an employer calls to demand a refund.

Some employers have resorted to reporting these “maids” to the police.

Zhang Jijiao, an immigration expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the growing market for Filipino nannies is inevitable. Prohibition will not stem the tide.

“Legislative departments should set up a threshold to encourage legal immigration and prohibit illegal immigration,” he said, adding that the government should also work faster to establish the country’s first immigration law to better manage immigrant laborers.

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