Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
BY NEVILLE SPYKERMAN
PETALING JAYA: The days of having a multi-tasking maid who does everything from cooking and washing to caring for the baby and the elderly and even washing the car is as good as gone.
Malaysians must now be prepared to pay more for specialised help.
Source countries such as Indonesia want to send upskilled helpers for specific jobs like caregiver, babysitter or nanny, and not the traditional domestic maid.
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Jeffrey Foo said all that was needed now was a mechanism to ensure these helpers were properly trained and certified.
Foo said Papa was ready to work with the source countries to create a win-win situation.
“Local employers will be satisfied if they get what they are paying for, which are skilled helpers who can do the task they are hired for,” he said.
The Star reported yesterday that Malaysia is in a fix because neighbouring countries are not in favour of sending domestic help here.
Foo said Indonesia, where most of the foreign maids are from, is not closing the door entirely.
Instead, it is adopting a more professional approach with its policy to stop sending live-in maids from next year.
A possible solution, according to Foo, is for the Government to license companies to supply part-time domestic maids to households who need them.
These companies could take care of the maids’ lodging and food but this would require a shift in government policy.
Foo pointed out that foreign workers brought in as cleaners were not supposed to be sent to work as domestic maids at individual homes.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association president (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein pointed out that the current system of having maids stay under the same roof as their employers for two years was not always ideal.
“If you’re lucky, there’s harmony. Otherwise, you get two years of disharmony,” he said.
He echoed the view for local agencies to be allowed a supply of part-time maids.
Engku Ahmad Fauzi said there were currently different expectations between local employers and source countries such as Indonesia.
In Indonesia, helpers are hired and trained as caregivers to take care of infants, children and the elderly or as domestic workers who cook, clean and tidy.
M. Sarkuna, a 40-year-old Indonesian maid working here, said those who took care of babies, children and the elderly earned at least RM800 in Jakarta, while those who cooked could take home about RM700.
“The starting pay for those who do household work is only RM500,” she said.
In Malaysia, Engku Ahmad Fauzi said employers often took for granted that maids had to multi-task.
He said the best and most well-trained helpers were not sent here, yet “Malaysian employers want to pay the lowest for the best”.
The way forward, at least in the short term, was to hire maids from cheaper and better source countries besides Indonesia and Philippines, he said.
“But Malaysians need to stop depending on domestic maids in the long run,” he added.
Source: The Star Online
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