WE are owners of employment agencies registered with the Manpower Department in Peninsular Malaysia to recruit and bring in foreign domestic helpers. We have been in this business for more than 30 years.
We have not been allowed to bring in any foreign domestic helpers since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Malaysia was declared in mid-March 2020.
Our clients comprise people in dire need of domestic helpers to care for their babies, young children and/or elderly parents while they are at work. They also need domestic helpers to do the household chores.
Most of our clients are highly educated women who work full time. Many of them would have to quit their jobs if they need to take care of their children or elderly relatives.
The foreign domestic maids’ services have enabled women to play their role in the national economy. In keeping with the policy to promote women’s roles and status, it is incumbent for the government to provide them with the necessary support, including childcare.
Any government effort to help women cope with their multiple roles both in the family and workplace would be most meaningful.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the government should commit to reviewing the rules and regulations for bringing in foreign domestic helpers immediately, as many families have suffered for one whole year due to lack of support in caring for the young, elderly and the disabled.
We have tried our best to source for local helpers, but our efforts have been futile. It is an accepted fact that locals shun 3D (dirty, difficult and dangerous or demeaning) jobs.
Some of our clients’ helpers had returned to their home countries after completing their contract, leaving their employers in a lurch as they are unable to hire replacements for them.
Unscrupulous and unlicensed agents have exploited the situation by coaxing some helpers to run away and be placed with new employers who offer them higher pay.
Malaysians are generally law-abiding and have strictly followed the standard operating procedures to keep the pandemic in check. We have all adjusted to the new norms, and businesses are reopening.
Many sectors, including higher education, are now open. International students can now enter the country while borders are also reopening for business travellers.
Hence, we are appealing to the authority concerned to consider lifting the ban on foreign workers’ recruitment by setting the necessary rules, regulations and SOPs. For a start, the government could consider limiting the intake of foreign domestic helpers to a maximum of 15 persons per month for each agency and gradually increasing the quota as the situation improves further.
The said authority should prioritise those who received approval from the Immigration Department early last year, as the employers have paid all the necessary fees and levies.
MAY LIM and JUSTINA NEO