Housemaid shortage sock on Malaysia’s jaw

KATHMANDU: Malaysia is facing a housemaid supply crisis after Indonesia stopped sending women workers there since May. Malaysia is open to women migrant workers (WMWs) from four countries — Laos, Vietnam, India and Nepal — along with Indonesia, a major source country.

Indonesia stopped sending housemaids to Malaysia since the last two months demanding assurance of their safety, Malaysia Star reported. Around 20 per cent of the total number of registered housemaids reported domestic violence perpetrated by their employers in 2008. The violence includes beating, kicking, mistreating and even sexual exploitation of housemaids.

Of the 3,10,662 women migrant workers working as housemaids in Malaysia 294,115 are Indonesian — a whopping 94.67 per cent of the total number. Indonesia has strongly urged Malaysian authorities to guarantee their safety through revision in laws. Indonesia and India have another demand — increase in housemaids’ salary, RM 1,100 for Indonesian and RM 1,400 for Indian

housemaids. Currently, housemaids working in Malaysia are earning RM 300 to RM 700.

Responding to the demands of source countries, Malaysia is working to revise the five decades old Employment Act 1955. “We are planning to bring housemaids in the social security net,” said Datuk Maznah Mazlan, Malaysian deputy minister for human resources on Tuesday. The department is including provisions of provident fund, additional living allowance, fixed eight hours duty and weekly day off for migrant housemaids.

“The employer must allow two weeks paid home leave with two-way air tickers,” Mazlan said.

The ministry is showing serious concern over the demands of Indonesia planning to set up a labour court for migrant workers’ rights protection.

“Housemaids can directly appeal to the court in case

of salary non-payment,

exploitation, or abuse of rights of migrant workers,” he added.

Malaysia is not safe for women migrant workers. “Exploitation of housemaids is rampant. It is really a serious problem,” said Foo Yong Hooi, secretary of Foreign Worker’s Agency Association (FWAA), adding, “However, there is a flip side to the issue too. Many Indonesian housemaids invite hostile reaction by behaving rudely and coldly with elderly and infirm members of the employer’s family.”

Despite high demand for housemaids in Malaysia, source countries like Laos and Nepal are reluctant to sent women blue-collar jobseekers there due to safety reasons. “We do know there is a high demand for housemaids but we cannot encourage Nepali women in informal sectors,” said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, director of Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE).

According to Sapkota, Nepal is not going to make any encouraging policy to send women workers in Gulf countries or Malaysia soon. “Women are more prone to violence when working as housemaids there,” he said. The government is promoting Israel as a major destination of Nepali women blue-collar jobseekers. Around 10,000 Nepali women are working there as care-givers.