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ALTHOUGH the Indonesian government’s
decision last week to temporarily stop sending
INDONESIAN MAIDS illegally), allowing Indonesian maids a day off
poses additional risks compared to those from
domestic workers to this country will cause other countries.
significant discomfort to potential employers, If so, policymakers should consider sourc-
the moratorium provides an excellent oppor-
tunity for Malaysian regulators to review their
stance towards Indonesian maids.
According to news reports, there are
300,000 Indonesian maids in this country.
Indonesia’s Manpower and Transmigration
Ministry says 3,000 Indonesians leave the
A review badly needed ing of maids from other countries like China.
Wanita MCA has strongly urged Putrajaya not
to allow women from China to work as maids
in this country because they could break up
families by seducing husbands.
The Wanita MCA’s suggestion is unten-
able. If some Malaysian Chinese
country every month to work as domestic Furthermore, low wages could cause Ma- Malaysian policymakers should women are insecure about the
helpers in Malaysia. This underscores the laysian employers to under-value their foreign consider this: why is it that almost fidelity of their husbands, they
number of households in this country affected domestic workers and in extreme cases, this all cases of appalling abuse involve aren’t compelled to hire maids
by Jakarta’s decision. may lead to severe abuse of foreign maids. Indonesian maids? from China. Why should these
Leaving aside the suggestion that Ma- Another point to note is the women be allowed to deny other
laysians are becoming far too dependent on growing number of Indonesians Malaysians the opportunity to em-
foreign maids, three issues need to be ad- venturing further to work as maids. ploy mainland Chinese as maids?
dressed. In Hongkong, Indonesian maids Third is the issue of greater
First is the huge discrepancy in wages enjoy monthly salaries of HK$3,000 legal protection for foreign do-
paid to Indonesian maids compared with that (RM1,500) or more – about three mestic workers. As Caram Asia,
for their Filipino counterparts. According to times that in Malaysia. a regional network representing
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agen- Some Indonesian maids that MakingSens non-governmental organisations,
cies (Papa) president, Raja Zulkepley Daha- I have met in the territory speak has pointed out, because maids are
lan, Filipino maids in this country are paid impeccable Cantonese. This sug- by Tan Siok Choo defined as “servants” under the
RM1,000 compared with more than RM500 gests language and other cultural Employment Act, they are denied
earned by Indonesian maids. differences are not a major stumbling block all statutory benefits except the right to sue
What justification is there for paying a for determined Indonesians. for unpaid wages.
Filipino maid almost double that for an In- Second is the Malaysian government’s I believe changing the legal status of do-
donesian? Is it because Filipinos can speak proposal to make it mandatory for employers mestic helpers could encourage an improve-
English and are more suitable for employ- to allow foreign maids a day off. This move is ment in mindset. Instead of regarding their
ment in non-Muslim households? long overdue. foreign maids as servants, employers would
I believe Filipino maids are also better paid Some Malaysians have written to the press be encouraged to treat them as employees.
because of Manila’s insistence on minimum to highlight their concern that if Indonesian Employers must be made to realise that
wages and other conditions of work. maids were allowed a day off, they could mix unless working conditions are improved
Even so, does this justify paying an Indo- with undesirable company, form undesirable significantly and immediately, Malaysia
nesian about half that for a Filipino maid? relationships, indulge in unhealthy activities, will quickly become the destination of last
If Filipino maids should enjoy a premium, I become dissatisfied with their employers and resort, not only for Indonesians but also for
suggest this should be capped at a reasonable run away. Bangladeshis, Nepalis, Cambodians and all
level – possibly 10% or 15%. Again the comparison is with Filipino those in the region who seek to improve their
Because wages for domestic workers from maids. Although Filipino maids are given a economic prospects.
Indonesia and other countries like Bangla- mandatory day off every week, why hasn’t
desh are so low, even hawkers can afford this prompted them to become dissatisfied
to hire foreigners to man their stalls. Why with their employers and run away in large Opinions expressed in this article are the
should hawkers be allowed to employ foreign numbers? personal views of the writer and should not
domestic workers? Not surprisingly, this has Some may argue because there are more be attributed to any organisation she is con-
led to a worsening quality of char kway teow, than 1.2 million Indonesians legally in this nected with. She can be contacted at siokchoo.
chicken rice and other hawker food. country (and possibly another 800,000 here