PETALING JAYA: Indonesia has set the minimum monthly salary for domestic helpers in Malaysia at RM900 with plans to raise it further to at least RM1,000.
Indonesia’s deputy ambassador to Malaysia Hermono said that the RM900 minimum salary took effect on Oct 20 and involves all new Indonesian maids coming to Malaysia after the date.
“It may be increased again based on the minimum wage in Malaysia which has been set at RM1,000,” he told The Star.
He did not specify a timeline for the increases, but confirmed that an Indonesian government agency had written to the embassy requesting that the salary be raised to RM1,000.
The letter by the National Board for Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers – a copy of which was seen by The Star – requested that the embassy implement the minimum wage of RM1,000.
The letter, dated Oct 15, also asked the embassy not to allow employers to make deductions from their maid’s salaries.
Currently, employers are allowed to deduct RM1,800 from the salaries of their maids over a three or six month period (see graphic).
The amount is an advance paid by the employers to cover some costs incurred by their maids, including for training.
Asked about the board’s letter, Hermono said the matter and other details were still being discussed between the Malaysian and Indonesian governments.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot said that senior officials from both countries had not made a decision on the minimum salary at the 11th Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting in Jakarta on Oct 15.
“It will be further discussed at the 12th JWG meeting which will be held in Putrajaya soon.”
Last week, the minister said that Malaysia and Indonesia had agreed to a slight increase in the wages of domestic maids and that he would announce the rate when a decision was made.
In May, Indonesia submitted a memorandum to the Government asking for the minimum wage for maids to be raised to RM1,200.
Apart from a loud “no” from prospective Malaysian employers, the proposal also did not go down well with local economists who said Malaysia was already facing a RM5bil annual outflow to Indonesia based on the present minimum wage.
Of the over 320,000 foreign maids in the country, 230,000 are from Indonesia.
The last Memorandum of Understanding on Indonesian maid recruitment, signed in May 2011, covered a five-year period and left the minimum salary to market forces to determine.
In the past, Malaysian employers typically paid an RM800 salary.
The Malaysian National Association of Employment Agencies said its 270 members were now in a bind due to what he termed as Indonesia’s “unilateral” decision to set the minimum salary.
“Our members are having a headache trying to figure out what to do, because if we don’t adhere to Indonesia’s decision, we will not be able to bring in any maids.
“We hope the government can decide on the matter as soon as possible,” said association president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan.
Raja Zulkepley said another worry was that the overall cost to hire an Indonesian maid will further rise if the government were to agree that employers cannot deduct their maid’s salary to recover the RM1,800 advance.