China mulling over allowing foreign maids to work in Beijing

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Authorities in Beijing are considering changes to the rules on foreign domestic workers, which would make it easier for overseas talent to settle in the Chinese capital.

The city's Commission of Commerce has said departments are weighing a proposal to offer work and residential permits to the maids of foreign executives as well as some workers from Hong Kong and Macau.

Permits will last for the duration of their contracts with their employers, as long as they can provide personal guarantees, the authority said.

If the move is approved, Beijing will become only the second mainland city to allow overseas domestic workers, following Shanghai, which introduced the measure within its Pudong district in 2017.

China prohibited individuals from hiring foreigners in 1996. Since then, expats who are seeking employment from individuals or households have not been able to obtain work permits. The sole exception is diplomats, who are allowed to bring expat staff with them from overseas.

To circumvent the law, foreign maids - mostly Filipinos - often come to China on a tourist visa. When that document expires, they either apply for an extension or try to obtain a business visa.

Mr Zhao Zheng, a project manager at a state-owned company that he asked be unnamed, employed two Filipino maids while working for three years in South-east Asia.

"The salary was low from my perspective and their service was much better than the maids I had in China," he said.

Mr Zhao returns to Beijing twice a year for a one-month leave from work and brings the two maids along.

"If the procedure to get residence permits for the maids can be cleared in the future, I would consider continuing to hire them after I finish my term overseas and bring them back if I meet the requirements for employers," he said.

The demand for housemaids has been rising in big cities and people are willing to pay higher fees for better service, said Mr Bi Guoxing at 58 Daojia, an agency providing a range of services including cleaners and domestic services.

Having worked in this industry for four years, Mr Bi said he is getting increasing inquiries about Filipino maids since people generally have an impression of them as trustworthy, industrious and highly educated.

Meanwhile, the discontent over the services provided by local housemaids has also contributed to a rise in the popularity of Filipino maids.

However, Mr Bi said that as good as Filipinas may be at cleaning house, the company cannot provide such maids because Chinese law prohibits individuals from hiring foreigners, whether they are from the Philippines or other countries.

"The increasing demand for Filipino maids can be attributed to people's better living conditions, which make the service affordable to more Chinese," he said. "As more families are having a second child, they need a more professional worker to help around the house."

Mr Bi added that the company provides Chinese domestic workers who have been trained by Filipino maids with slightly higher salaries - 6,000 yuan (S$1,236) to 6,500 yuan a month. The average local housemaid makes 5,000 yuan a month.