Malaysia Looks Beyond Indonesia for Maids

KUALA LUMPUR ~ A shortage of Indonesian maids caused by poor pay may force Malaysia to recruit domestic help from other Asian countries, a report said.

Home Affairs Minister Mohamad Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said an alternative source of workers was needed as Indonesians, its biggest source of foreign domestic help, are increasingly shunning Malaysia, the New Straits Times reported.

Radzi said he would discuss the labor shortage with his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta later this month, as the country was seeing an influx of lesser-qualified workers.

“The drop is noticeable and I need to sort this out. We also have to address the fact that Indonesia is discouraging its women from coming here as maids because of the wages offered,” Radzi was quoted as saying.

“(Indonesian) employment agents are also sending second- and third-class maids and we are not happy about it,” he said.

Indonesian maids currently earn up to 500 ringgit (US$147) monthly, a salary that would be offered to new maids from countries such as India, Laos, Nepal, Vietnam, East Timor, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the newspaper said.

Radzi said Indonesian maids were preferring to head to Hong Kong, Singapore and countries in the Middle East, where they could command a higher salary.

Last year Indonesia and Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding on the treatment of domestic workers to protect them from abuse, but no minimum wage was stipulated.

Malaysia employs 350,000 foreign maids, 95 percent of whom are Indonesians, who share cultural and religious ties with Malaysians.

About 20,000 Filipino maids are paid almost three times the average salary, being valued for their ability to speak English.

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