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January 8, 2019

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Ambitious parents fuel demand for English-speaking nannies

Professional, efficient, well-educated and fluent in English are some of the factors that conspire to make Filipino maids sought-after the world over.

In China however, foreigners were banned from taking low-end jobs such as housekeeping until 2016, when, in an effort to make overseas scientists to stay longer and support the city’s plan to build a global technology innovation center, Shanghai allowed some foreign experts to employ one foreign domestic worker.

US citizen Erin Tsai is a mother of three. She already has two Chinese domestics, but she is looking for a Filipino maid to help out.

“I was raised by Filipino maids. They did everything, from taking care of me, to cleaning and cooking,” she said.

“I can’t find a Chinese domestic who can deal with so many things by herself.”

On Sunday, Tsai went to CC Shanghai Ayi Agency, one of the city’s biggest housekeeping companies offering services for foreigners. She interviewed five prospective employees by video call and appears to have found the perfect candidate.

“She’s young and single with a college degree. She has worked as a domestic helper in the Middle East for seven years,” Tsai said. “She had taken care of seven children for a family, and at the same time she also dealt with other housekeeping affairs.”

According to the agency’s Xu Jun, there are about 1,000 Filipino maids with working visas and residence permits in Shanghai, but not all of them are licensed maids.

“Previously, the city had very few legal Filipino maids as the requirements for hirers were very high, but now, more have come to the city,” she said. “But in fact, the policy only benefits those who make considerable economic contributions to the country.”

If a Filipino maid comes to the country legally, it will be noted on her residence permit that she comes to do domestic service. However, some foreign hirers bypass the law and recruit maids by falsely claiming that they work for companies. Indeed, they work and stay in China quasi-legally, while working illegally as maids at home.

“They are also illegal, but at least the authorities have their real information and can track them down,” Xu said. “Many more of Filipino maids remain in the country completely illegally.”

Zhang Baoxia, from Shanghai housekeeping service industry association, estimates that there are many thousands of Filipino maids without work visas and residence permits in Shanghai. Xu said many of them work as maids with overstayed tourist visas.

“Some come from Hong Kong and just don’t want to come back because of the high salaries. Here in Shanghai they can earn 8,000 yuan (US$1,170) per month but the monthly salary in Hong Kong is just around HK$4,000 (US$510),” she said.

In recent years, local governments have acted against Filipino maids without working visas.

“They can be easily tracked when they are with their employers and take planes or check into hotels.

“One of my clients told me that an illegal Filipino maid at her friend’s home was repatriated after a hotel reported her to the police,” Xu said.

Many families want Filipino maids to give their kids a boost in English and would like the policy to be further eased.

Grace Zhang, mother of a 9-year-old boy, said: “I’d like to have a Filipino maid because I’ve heard that they are super professional and I want my son to speak English with her.”

She added, “I’ve asked local housekeeping companies and learnt that a legal Filipino maid costs an average of 10,000 yuan per month. It’s not so expensive. Chinese domestic workers who don’t do a very good job charge 40 yuan per hour.”


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