Groups: Lift freeze on domestic workers

PETALING JAYA: While Malaysia waits to ink the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the recruitment and placement of domestic workers with Indonesia next month, private employment agencies are appealing for the government to allow the entry of maids from other source countries in the meantime.

Although the country is now in the recovery phase, private employment agencies are still in a quandary as the hiring freeze on foreign workers imposed by the government to curb Covid-19 infections has not only led to a shortage of manpower, but also means that agencies are unable to resume business.

Though some agencies were forced to close, those that are still operating are appealing to the government to lift the freeze on domestic workers from the Philippines to enter Malaysia as there is an acute shortage of maids and a strong demand for at-home care for children and the elderly with many Malaysians returning to work on-site.

National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (Pusma) Zarina Ismail said it is unfair to make employers wait for an MoU between Malaysia and Indonesia to be completed.

“I will write to the National Security Council (NSC), Immigration Department and the Home Ministry, appealing for the government to lift the freeze on domestic workers from the Philippines.

“It is unfair for employers to wait for an MoU between Malaysia and Indonesia to be completed as there is nothing stopping workers from other countries from coming here,” she said.

The Philippines has also not imposed any travel ban or restrictions on its citizens who wish to work in Malaysia or in any other country, said Zarina.

“According to sources in the Philippines, the country had resumed deployment of its citizens last year, with instructions for its workers to strictly follow standard operating procedure imposed by host countries,” she said.

On Sept 19 last year, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan reminded employers that there will be no new entry of foreign workers, including domestic workers, into Malaysia until Dec 31. To date, the policy has not changed.

Last year, it was reported that Indonesia would stop sending its citizens to Malaysia as domestic workers until a new MoU between the two countries for the recruitment and placement of Indonesian domestic workers was signed to replace the previous agreement that lapsed in 2016.

On Jan 10, Saravanan said Malaysia and Indonesia are only expected to sign the MoU on the recruitment and placement of Indonesian domestic workers in the first week of February.

On Jan 11, Saravanan had a meeting with private employment agencies but did not announce when they could resume hiring foreign workers.

Zarina pointed out that as they could not do business, many private employment agencies have resorted to selling their property and belongings to survive the hardship and loss of income.

Association of Employment Agencies president Datuk Foo Yong Hooi said while the Jan 11 meeting was fruitful and his association supported the Human Resources Ministry’s stand in finalising the MoU with Indonesia on Feb 7, the government should in the meantime allow foreign workers from the Philippines to enter.

“Many agencies have suspended their business but with the announcement on the lifting of the ban on the recruitment of migrant workers, it has provided us with a ray of light.

“Since we are awaiting the finalisation of the MoU with Indonesia, we hope the Human Resources Ministry will make another attempt to request for the opening of the border so Filipino maids can enter,” he said.

Foo said that the Human Resources Ministry has always been supportive of lifting the ban on foreign workers and had made the request many times on behalf of the agencies.

There is an acute shortage of workers in the market, said Foo, who also hoped that the government would simplify the hiring process during this period to ease the shortage which has severely affected the country’s economic growth.

Foo also pointed out that there must be a solution developed for the issue as agencies were struggling and should be given a lifeline.

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