CENTRES still in business have no choice but to up their fees.
Zubaidah Husin, who runs four centres, has raised her fees from RM350 to RM450.
“The profit is not much but most of us continue because of passion. We do this to help working mothers so we charge only what they can afford to pay.
“Since the RM900 minimum wage ruling was introduced, we’ve had problems coping. Now that it’s RM1,000, how can we cope without upping our fees?” she says
Zubaidah, who is also the Association of Childcare Providers Pahang president, has been in the business for 14 years.
Before the minimum wage ruling, RM700 was the maximum operators in Pahang paid their staff so they were able to charge RM350 per child. Most staff, though, were paid an average salary of RM450 but with food and lodging provided.
“Now almost 70% of the operators are not paying their staff a minimum wage because they can’t afford to. If there is a crackdown by the authorities, these centres will be forced to close,” she says.
She does sympathise with parents, and she believes that many – especially those with two or three kids – are already struggling to make ends meet.
Association of Childcare Providers Terengganu president Wan Najmyah Wan Yussof, who has been running her centre since 2009, agrees.
She charges RM400 for babies and RM350 for children one year and above.
The situation is critical, she insists. Many of the 160-odd operators in Terengganu are at their wits end.
“Most who are still in business are using income from elsewhere to keep their centres from going under because they love kids.
“Personally, I’m using profits from my kindergarten to help keep my childcare centre running,” she says.
She says the association has appealed to the state government to subsidise training and salary costs.
A childcare guidebook on quality standards is also in the pipeline. This, she says, will ensure a minimum standard for all centres and help standardise the fees.
Operators want to increase their fees but they are afraid the parents will take their kids home. Previously when operators tried to raise their fees slightly, that’s what happened, she says.
“The problem is, we don’t know whether parents really cannot afford to pay more or they just refuse to,” she says, adding that most families there have two kids.