For domestic helpers, landing a job is often a one-way street. Employers can pick the maid they want to hire at a recruitment agency, but helpers rarely have the luxury of choosing their boss. On top of that, maids are charged placement and processing fees by the agency.
“These women often end up in debt bondage and forced labor due to precarious recruitment practices,” says Laurence Fauchon, a French national based in Hong Kong, who set up a website called Helper Choice where employers and maids meet and match at no charge to the helper.
The site is also available as an app and is available in seven countries — HK, Macau, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait — where there just happens to be a big number of overseas Filipino workers. Of the 50,000 domestic workers in its database, 85% of whom were originally from the Philippines.
Helper Choice was named runner-up in Pitch With Purpose, a competition for women entrepreneurs with social-themed businesses held in Houston, Texas, this month.
“We’re delighted to be runner-up and to raise awareness of the widespread exploitation of millions of migrant domestic workers. Migrant domestic workers enable women entrepreneurs, like myself, to set up successful businesses,” says Fauchon. “We should be grateful for their care for our homes, but instead these women often end up in debt bondage and forced labor due to precarious recruitment practices.”
The website will be using its prize money to invest in information technology. “We are always looking for new innovations so that we can make our services for domestic workers and employers better and help more Filipino domestic workers to find the right job for them,” according to Helper Choice.
Our sister site Coconuts Hong Kong has been working with Helper Choice to raise awareness about the plight of domestic helpers in the former Crown Colony. Recently, they ran a ‘be a journalist’ contest where domestic helpers were asked to submit their stories in the form of an article, essay, poem, or song. Check out the winning entries here.
Fauchon believes “it’s an important step forward for the migrant domestic worker industry to raise awareness globally. Forced domestic labor doesn’t only exist in Asia and the Middle East, it is a global issue. Modern domestic slavery should have no place in the 21st century. It’s time we unite and stop this phenomenon once and for all.”