Malaysians can survive without Indonesian maids, say agents

February 18, 20152:31 pm354 views

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s advice to his citizens not to take up low-paying jobs as maids abroad is not expected to have a big impact on Malaysia, as the demand for domestic helpers from Indonesia has dropped by 80% in the past two years, said a group representing maid agents here.

Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies president Jeffrey Foo said this was because agents on the Indonesian side were not sticking to the fee structure agreed by the two countries and have instead been demanding almost double the amount agreed upon.

Foo said the demand has been gradually dropping since Indonesia lifted a moratorium on its citizens working here at the end of 2011.

“The agreed fee was RM7,800 with RM5,000 going to the Indonesian agent,” he said.

“But they are not happy with that. They are demanding up to RM9,000 for their part, so we have been focusing less and less on maids from Indonesia in the last two years.”

He said agencies have instead been relying on domestic helpers from the Philippines and Sri Lanka, and have forwarded an appeal to the Malaysian government to open up to more countries, such as Nepal, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Foo said families who were previously employing Indonesian maids were willing to go without maids than have to pay almost double the amount.

“Because the Indonesian agents are asking more, employers have to fork out nearly RM15,000 to apply for a maid, which is ridiculous and akin to exploitation.

“In comparison, it only costs RM10,000 in upfront fees to get a domestic helper from Philippines and RM8,000 for Sri Lankans,” he added.

He hoped Putrajaya would give in to their appeal to open up more countries for domestic helpers, adding that this would result in a limited demand for Indonesian maids in time to come.

For businesswoman Anis Aishah Safarwan, 68, however, Jokowi’s announcement was cause for concern, given that she has been employing helpers from Indonesia since 1996.

She said while negotiations between both governments had been ongoing over the years, the situation often returned to normal.

This time, however, Anis said she was uncertain, as Jokowi was known to be a “man of his word”.

“I am slightly concerned because Jokowi is known to stick to his decision but then again, this issue of Indonesian maids not being able to come here has happened too many times in the past,” said Anis, who paid RM12,000 in fees for her latest Indonesian helper, who has been with her for a year.

Anis added that her options were also limited as she preferred a Muslim maid, whereas those from Philippines were usually Christians.

“We basically prefer Indonesian maids and also because we don’t need to give them Sundays off,” she said.

On Friday, Jokowi announced that the practice of Indonesian women going overseas to work as housemaids must stop with immediate effect, saying that Indonesians must have some “self-esteem and dignity”.

Jokowi also announced that he had instructed the manpower minister to formulate a road map to ensure that Indonesia stopped sending its people abroad as domestic help.


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