This week Pastor Jorge and I took a day trip to Macau, to investigate if it would be possible to "recycle" some terminated ladies through Macau. Recently some Arrow ladies have lost their jobs, and instead of letting us help them find a new employer, they went to another agency who sends them to Macau instead back to the Philippines while awaiting a visa. When I asked them "why?" they told me they didn't have money to pay the agency fee in the Philippines ($3000), and although the other agencies who charge $5000-12,000, they have a salary deduction scheme. We decided to make a survey trip to see if we could possibly send ladies to Macau while awaiting visas. This would save them money, and reduce the processing time by a week.
We visited a boarding house, spoke to helpers working in Macau and visited two church ministries focused on helping helpers. On the way to the first meeting, I noticed that the walkway was covered with colorful business cards. I picked up a few to look at: they were all advertisements for prostitutes with the phone #s prominent. The boarding house we visited was around the corner from a casino. The matron of the boarding facility told us that they only served their own church members, had strict rules, and low fees. She said that many of their church members will end up leaving the church, and get drawn into the nightlife and vices of Macau. She said she has even known ladies who go back to their jobs in Hong Kong pregnant.
The 2nd place we visited was a Filipino church. Most of their members work in Macau as domestic helpers, but they also have contact with quite a few helpers waiting in Macau for visas. They told us that they have 3 members who have boarding houses and could possibly accept some ladies from Arrow. Later on, via email, they told us that operating a boarding house without a proper license is illegal, as it violates fire and safety codes, and so they could not recommend that we place Arrow ladies in Macau boarding houses.
After I returned to HK, one of our Arrow ladies who went to Macau to await a visa (using another agency), came by the office to say "hello". I asked her about her Macau experience. She said she went through a large agency who runs 10 boarding houses in Macau. She paid $4750 + boat fare. She waited 48-49 days before her visa came. During her wait, she served in the kitchen cooking 2 meals a day for up to 100 ladies staying in the boarding houses. She visited casinos, wandered around and slept on her bunk. Other ladies routinely came back to the boarding house drunk or worse. Overall, she said it was nasty experience and she wished she had just gone back to the Philippines.
By hiring a lady who will go to Macau to await her visa, you can save $1116 on the Mandatory Philippine Insurance and perhaps you will shave 1-2 weeks off of the processing time. On the downside, you will risk your helper getting involved in gambling, and if she is desperate and pretty, perhaps prostitution. She will have to stay in an unlicensed, illegal boarding house, and will come back owing $5000-$12000 to her agency.
Is it worth it? For now, the answer for Arrow is "NO!" What do you think? Leave your comments below.