Imposing a cap not practical, say job agencies

On the way: Pedestrians pass by the Indonesian embassy in KL. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Job agencies and groups are against a cap being imposed for hiring Indonesian domestic workers.

As Malaysia doesn’t depend on just one country to supply domestic workers, Association of Employment Agencies Malaysia vice-president Suresh Tan said it should be left to the market forces to determine the cost.

“If you put a cap, they will stick to it (the maximum price) no matter what the demand is,” he said.

“When you let the market forces decide the price, other countries that supply labour may also reduce their recruitment fees,” he said.

Currently, recruitment fees for hiring a domestic worker from Indonesia stand between RM15,000 and RM20,000, with additional charges incurred due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Tan said it costs an agency RM10,000 to get the biodata of a domestic worker, and the charges could vary depending on scouting expenses and other expenditures.

“Then there is also immigration levy of around RM1,136, medical checks by Foreign Worker’s Medical Examinations (Fomema), insurance, Social Security (Socso) fees and now Covid-19 quarantine requirements.

Concurring on the matter, National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (Pusma) president Zarina Ismail said Malaysian agencies rely on the costs determined by their counterparts in Indonesia.

“However, we do hope that we can lower the cost. Previously, we could get a domestic worker for about RM17,500 to RM18,000.

“If possible, we want to go lower than RM20,000 because we need to understand the current economic situation of Malaysian employers,” she said.

Job agency managing director Justina Neo felt that a cap on hiring fees would only create additional problems, including “loopholes” around the implementation.

She doesn’t think it’s possible to lower the hiring fees unless Indonesia reduces the fee of acquiring the domestic workers’ biodata.

However, Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said it’s justifiable to lower the price to below RM10,000.

“The cost of hiring an Indonesian maid should be below RM10,000. What has caused the cost to shoot up is the layers of processes,” he said.

Agencies in Malaysia have to liaise with their counterparts in Indonesia to scout for candidates in villages, he said, which is an added cost. They also have to provide training on top of other necessities for the domestic workers, thus incurring even more expenses, he added.

To combat the extra costs, he suggested that employers be given the freedom to recruit their own domestic workers.

Commenting on the minimum starting pay, Engku Ahmad said RM1,200 is acceptable as long as the work quality is “at the highest”.

“The employers would expect high quality for such pay. If the maid can deliver it, then RM1,200 should be okay although it is actually quite high,” he said.

Tan and Zarina echoed the same sentiments, saying that the minimum pay of RM1,200 is justifiable if the domestic worker is able to deliver work that is equivalent to the pay.

“There are employers who are willing to pay even RM1,500 as long as their work is on par,” Tan said.

Neo said the starting pay is reasonable but cautioned that it may not be able to attract workers with better skills, as they would opt for a country that offers more pay.

“They (domestic workers) would rather go to neighbouring countries such as Singapore where they could earn S$550 (RM1,715). The Philippines sets a minimum pay of US$400 (RM1,675) for their domestic workers,” Neo said.

Last year, the Indonesian government proposed that Putrajaya set a minimum wage of RM1,500.

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