The Sunday Times featured a newly-hired male domestic worker from Myanmar on its 12 May 2013 edition.

31-year-old Lum Hkawng comes from Kachin state in northern Myanmar. The former steel welder, who speaks Mandarin, is working for a partially-handicapped man in his 50s who was injured in a traffic accident. The employer lives alone.

Journalist Amelia Tan, in her report, says that he is the first male domestic helper from Myanmar to start work here.

The agency that brought him in told the Sunday Times that there are about 40 more potential male domestic workers who have completed a 45-day training course in Yangon. They can expect to earn $500 a month, “slightly higher than the average of $450 which maids earn in Singapore,” the newspaper said.

However, there are hiccups in getting work permits for them. The Ministry of Manpower takes longer to approve the hiring of male domestic workers. In Lum Hkawng’s case, it took over a month. Ten other applications are pending, says the agency. Applications for female domestic workers take only a few days. The agency told the newspaper that MOM allows male domestics only if employers have good reasons to need them, such as if there are elderly men in households who need care, or if there are strenuous tasks like looking after a large garden.

Demand from employers for male household help is also lagging, though it may gradually increase if the pioneering few work out well.

Lum Hkawng is however not the first male domestic helper in Singapore. Sunday Times says that there are 33 others, mostly Filipino. The newspaper also gave a fresh figure for female domestic helpers: 209,600.