KUALA LUMPUR: There is a desperate need for foreign domestic helpers, made more urgent by many Malaysians currently working from home, says the National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (Pusma).
Its president Zarina Ismail said that there were more than 10,000 families suffering as they wait to get a domestic helper.
"To add to their woes is that many existing foreign maids will be ending their employment contracts soon and returning to their countries," she told a press conference on Thursday (March 25).
Zarina said there were families struggling to cope with the shortage of foreign domestic helpers, and the situation was particularly hard on the aged living alone or those requiring assistance.
She noted that among the hardest hit were working mothers who have to juggle working from home and caring for their young children, aged or disabled parents.
"Some children go to school two or three times a week with others staying home.
"Many parents are troubled having to work from home while taking care of their children and the household," she said.
Based on statistics, 30% of women are decision-makers in the public sector while 27% are directors in private companies, said Zarina.
She also questioned the "double standards" between the locals and expatriates in the country.
"Expatriates are allowed to bring in their domestic helpers while locals can't get one.
"What's the difference when these maids are coming from the same host country?" she asked.
She noted that even foreign businessmen and students are now allowed into the country.
Zarina also said the risk of Covid-19 spreading due to the entry of foreign domestic helpers is negligible.
Quoting official statistics revealed by Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, she said only 0.42% out of 117,449 foreigners entering the country had tested positive for the virus between July 24 last year and Feb 5 this year.
"This means there is only one positive case out of 238 arrivals, which is insignificant," she added.
Zarina said employers are willing to bear RM3,900 costs for Covid-19 tests and the mandatory quarantine for the maids brought in.
She said representatives had met with Ismail Sabri and Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan to highlight the issue.
"We have written to the Prime Minister too and hope to meet him soon to discuss the matter as things have reached a critical point," she said.
Meanwhile, a representative of a coalition of 1,018 maid agencies, David Tan, said the government could apply the existing standard operating procedure for the entry of foreign workers on domestic helpers.
"Unlike foreign workers who are employed in other sectors, domestic helpers come in individually and do not live in clusters.
"They pose less of a health risk," he said.
He added that if the situation persists, there is a danger of undocumented foreign workers being hired as maids, posing a greater health risk for employers and the community.
He noted that an online petition set up three weeks ago by the coalition for the government to allow the entry of domestic helpers has garnered over 4,500 signatures from hard-pressed families and maid agencies.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said the acute shortage of foreign domestic workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for the government to make the job a qualified profession.
He said this will encourage locals to take up work as live-in or full-time professional domestic helpers.
"Working as a domestic helper should not be a last-resort job that is frowned upon," he said.
There has been a freeze on the entry of foreign domestic helpers since March last year when borders were closed to contain the spread of Covid-19.