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May 15, 2010

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Illegal ... but Filipino maids still in demand

EXPAT families newly settling down in Shanghai are likely to want Filipinos, renowned for their nannying skills, as housemaids. But finding one is getting harder these days.

Maids may still be available via underground agencies, but they are no longer freely available after the authorities tightened up the job market.

Notices seeking Filipino housemaids have been banned and torn from the bulletin boards at many supermarkets where expats used to advertise in downtown Jing'an District and Biyun Community in the Pudong New Area.

A shop assistant on Nanjing Road W., surnamed Wu, said such notices had been banned by the local labor management bureau during the World Expo period.

The difficulty of finding Filipino maids has aroused discussion among expats on the Internet.

Several people on the Shanghai Expat forum said they were not able to find Filipino nannies.

"I need a Filipino maid to take care of my baby and cook a bit, but I searched every corner of the city and I couldn't find one," was one complaint.

In response, agencies posted messages on the Website promising to provide services. However, those agencies are illegal.

A state regulation in 2002 banned foreigners from taking jobs as domestic helpers.

"Filipino housemaids who don't have a working visa are all serving illegally in the country," said Sun Hande, director of the local labor authority's overseas worker employment center.

Almost all Filipino housemaids have visas allowing them to stay in the country for up to six months but not to work.

More than 30 foreign maids were ordered to be deported by Shanghai immigration authorities last September.

But the maids are now using underground agencies via the Internet. The agencies help them to look for employers, arrange interviews, and renew their visas.

"The business is illegal, but we can play some tricks in that," said Carol Xu of a local domestic service agency, who said the company she works for had about 300 maids from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand on its books.

Domingo, a 42-year-old Filipino housemaid, said she had been working for a Hong Kong family for the past two years but was sent back to her home town earlier this year.

"My visa expired and my employers didn't know how to renew the visa," she said.

"But now the agency can do that for me."

Domingo says she charges 4,000 yuan (US$586) a month.


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