Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment reported on July 30 that China is planning to offer employment opportunities to Filipino household service workers. Philstar.com also reported that five major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, will be the first to open their doors to Filipino domestic workers with a monthly salary of 13,000 yuan ($1,933.83).
But the news has not yet been confirmed by Chinese labor authorities. The Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Republic of the Philippines also claimed that they were unfamiliar with the news.
Thus, it remains uncertain whether or not China will actually provide Filipino domestic workers with legal work opportunities, but the news itself has raised heated discussions on Chinese social websites.
Some netizens said the measure would be a win-win solution for both countries. "This will help the Philippine economy tremendously, and improve their understanding of each other's language and culture," one blogger commented.
However, many online users worried if the employment of Chinese ayi (household workers) will be adversely affected by the Filipino influx. One netizen commented, "While many underprivileged Chinese are unable to find a job, why does the government consider creating work opportunities to foreigners?"
So what does Shanghai's expat community, who are fond of hiring domestic helpers to clean their apartments, cook their meals and care for their children, think about the news? The Global Times hit the streets to find out.
A Filipino domestic worker demonstrates how to clean a house. Photos: CFP and Wang Han/GT
Preference for Chinese
Amy Chen (pseudonym) is a Chinese mother living in the US. "I am glad to see that China will offer more work opportunities for foreigners," she said. "If there is a market demand for Filipino domestic workers in the Chinese mainland, we need to offer them employment opportunities."
Ukrainians Mila and Sergii Kushniriuk also support the idea of legally allowing Filipino workers in the Chinese mainland. They told the Global Times that Filipinos usually are responsible, skilled and offer high-quality service.
Similarly, American Joshua Mackles thinks it is a good idea. "It will give Filipino workers opportunities to support their families," he said.
In terms of expats' preference for the cultural backgrounds of household workers, different foreigners had different answers. For instance, Chen said that, compared with foreign household helpers, she prefers Chinese.
"I live in the US but I want someone who can speak Chinese with my child at home, so I prefer to recruit a native Chinese speaker as my household helper," she told the Global Times. "My family also prefers Chinese cuisine to Western food, so I tend to choose Chinese domestic workers who can cook authentic Chinese dishes."
British national Alice Hodqkinson also said she prefers to hire Chinese domestic workers, as they might be easier to manage in China. "My flatmates and I hire an ayi to clean our apartment twice a week for two hours," she said. "We pay the ayi either by WeChat or leave money on the table. We pay her 60 yuan an hour."
In comparison, Kushniriuk and Mila have a better impression of Filipino workers. "We now have a Filipino household worker. She works only one day per week for an hour at our apartment and we are quite satisfied with her. She is a very nice lady," Kushniriuk said.
Filipino domestic worker teaches Chinese domestic workers how to care for a baby.
Mila added that the Filipino household worker who they employ not only does what she is required, but also extra work beyond their expectations. "Previously we had a Chinese domestic worker, but the Filipino tends to do more than we ask her to do," she said.
Kushniriuk and Mila clarified that they don't think Chinese domestic workers are any less professional than Filipinos. "It is not about Filipino or Chinese, but about our own experience," they added.
Mackles said he doesn't care about household workers' cultural backgrounds, only if they are honest, hardworking and do their job well. When asked about her expectations for household workers, Chen agreed that honesty and safety are key qualities.
"I prefer domestic workers who pay attention to details, because sometimes a small mistake can have very bad consequences. For example, if they forget to put knives away or forget to turn off the gas stove, my child might get hurt," she said.
Hodqkinson said her only expectation is "someone who can clean well." As for Kushniriuk and Mila, they said they want a household worker to keep everything in their home clean and nice.
But they also pointed out they have to trust the domestic worker they hire. "You need to make sure you can leave money or your documents in your room without worrying she will take it," Kushniriuk said.
The monthly salary offered to Filipino household service workers is projected to be 13,000 yuan, a figure that has stirred additional controversy among Chinese netizens.
Many argued that this salary is too high, as the average monthly income in Shanghai and Beijing for professional Chinese is only around 9,000 yuan before tax; the starting salary for recent university graduates in first-tier cities is only around 5,500 yuan per month.
But are foreigners in Shanghai willing to pay such a high salary to a fellow foreigner? American Mackles told the Global Times that if 13,000 yuan includes accommodations, it is fair.
"Without accommodations, 13,000 yuan a month is not enough to live in Shanghai," he said, adding that American household helpers usually can earn $100 for just five hours of cleaning.
Likewise, British Hodqkinson said such a payment is completely reasonable in Shanghai. "People should be paid at least that amount; I was shocked when I came to China and found out how little people are normally paid here," she said.
Hodqkinson added that the annual salary of a domestic worker in the UK is around 15,000 pounds ($19,587.36) before tax, while Britain's average annual salary is around 25,000 pounds.
Kushniriuk said the salary of a household worker should depend on which city he or she works. "In first-tier cities, 13,000 yuan might be reasonable. But in second-tier or third-tier cities, it's a little high," he said.
"And if it is a really huge home, and there is plenty of work to do, 130,000 yuan per year might not be enough. But if it is a small apartment, it might not deserve that much. So it depends on each situation," he said.
Chen believes that if a domestic worker has good skills and offers high-quality service, he or she deserves higher payment. "If a Filipino can speak fluent English and is very professional and responsible, 13,000 yuan a month is not too much," she said.
"In fact, it is hard to retain a good domestic worker, so offering qualified workers with higher salaries is necessary," she told the Global Times.
"I am a full-time mother and I can do most household work and childcare by myself. But if I need to hire someone to look after my child or prepare three meals, I am willing to pay $2,000 per month," she said.
Sergii Kushniriuk (left) and Mila