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BY YUEN MEIKENG
Having Filipina maids, whose salaries are US$400 a month, are getting pricier for Malaysian employers with the dip in the ringgit. It doesn’t help that employers are also hit with the rising cost of living.
MAID employers are not having it easy.
It is difficult enough that Indonesian maids are in short supply and talks are ongoing to have their wages increased.
But now with the shrinking ringgit and rising costs of living, those who have Filipina maids are feeling a bigger pinch in their wallets every month.
Given that the minimum salary of a Filipina maid is fixed at US$400 a month, employers are paying more in ringgit – no thanks to the country’s depreciating currency and higher costs of living.
Last year, an employer would pay their maid about RM1,200 a month, equivalent to US$400.
But now, bosses who want to hire new Filipina maids or renew their maid’s contract will have to fork out an extra RM240 monthly since the minimum monthly salary has been increased to RM1,440.
The new rate took effect about six months ago in line with the ringgit’s performance in the exchange rate.
Even after paying an upfront fee for a Filipina maid (which totals some RM12,000), an employer would have to foot an average total of around RM2,000 a month, Malaysian National Association of Employment Agencies (Pikap) president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan estimates.
This is after totalling the maid’s monthly salary and other costs, including her accommodation, meals, medical fees and toiletries.
“The maid is also entitled to overtime payments, which adds on to the array of costs,” he says.
Raja Zulkepley says the minimum wage of Filipina maids has been fixed at US$400 for the past 10 years.
The sum paid by employers is based on the contract between them and the maid, as well as the local currency’s performance at the time of contract.
Raja Zulkepley proposes that it is time to change this, adding that maids should be paid based on the ringgit and not the greenback.
“Even Indonesian maids are paid based on the ringgit. Pikap urges Malaysia to discuss the move with the Philippines,” he says.
The total upfront fee for a Filipina maid has also risen from about RM9,000 to RM12,000 after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax and increase in costs.
Raja Zulkepley points out that the rising cost of living is not helping either, with the spike in food prices and transportation costs.
“Employers are burdened with extra costs and there have been many cases where they cannot or refuse to pay their maids.
“These days, Pikap receives about 20 complaints a week of cases where employers did not pay their maids. If they do not pay or delay payment, it is often the maid agencies who fork out the sum,” he laments.
In some cases, employers blame their maids for being lazy and use this as an excuse for not paying their wages.
“When this happens, the maids will complain to their embassy. Maid agencies end up footing the bill because we are the ones who brought them here,” Raja Zulkepley says.
For Indonesian maids, it is estimated that employers pay between RM15,000 and RM17,000 in total upfront fees.
Currently, Indonesian maids here are paid between RM800 and RM900 monthly but Indonesia has been pushing for it to be raised to at least RM1,000.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot previously said that both countries had agreed to a slight increase but no decision has been made.
The move will be further discussed by the Joint Working Group made up of officials from both nations, who will meet in Putrajaya soon.
It was reported in January that Indonesian maids are paid more in Singapore, where they earn S$500 (RM1,530) a month.
The upfront fees paid by Singaporean employers are also reportedly cheaper – about S$2,000 (RM6,110) to agencies for Indonesian maids.
Raja Zulkepley, however, denies that there is a big difference in cost for an Indonesian maid in Malaysia and Singapore.
“The cost structure is more or less the same and only differs by 5-10%. But maids prefer to work in Singapore because they get higher salaries there,” he points out.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein agrees that bosses here are hit with the escalating costs in hiring a maid.
He says some maid employers are even paying RM1,600 for a Filipina domestic helper.
“Employers have no choice but to commit because of the strong demand,” he says.
He suggests that employers hire local maids or settle their own household chores if they cannot cope with the costs.
“It doesn’t help that Indonesian maids are still hard to come by as they prefer to work in countries that pay more than Malaysia.
“Malaysian maid employers should seek other alternatives or change their way of life,” Engku Ahmad Fauzi says.
He also hopes that the minimum monthly salary for Indonesian maids will stay at RM800, which he deems “already too high”.
“While negotiations are still ongoing, we urge the government to fight for the interests of Malaysians,” he says.
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies vice-president (I) Foo Yong Hooi hopes that no more adjustments will be made for the time being for Filipina maid salaries.
“Employers are suffering due to the hike and we feel for their plight. But if the ringgit continues to dip, sooner or later changes have to be made again,” he says.
Source: The Star Online
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