HR Ministry must come clean on RM15k breakdown of hiring a domestic helper through MoU with Indonesia: MP Kasthuri

Media statement by DAP Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and DAP Deputy Secretary for International Affairs Kasthuri Patto on Tuesday 29 March 2022 in Kuala Lumpur:

The Human Resource Ministry must come clean on the breakdown of the RM15,000 cost of hiring a domestic helper through the MoU with Indonesia which will be signed on April 1 2022.

On Wednesday 23rd March 2022, Deputy Minister for Human Resources Datuk Awang Hashim, in a Parliamentary reply to my question, stated that the cost for hiring domestic helpers from Indonesia was capped at RM7800 – RM6000 on the Malaysian part and RM1800 on the Indonesian part which was the “standard” amount paid by employers that was based on the 9th Joint Working Group in September 2016.

He however did not mention the amount needed on the current cost of hiring them from Indonesia when I asked him for the breakdown of the cost pre-pandemic and post-pandemic.

Any person who had consulted and used the services of any “maid agency” as they are so commonly known in Malaysia would know that the amount is almost double the price and even ranging from RM15,000 to RM20,000 in the past. The RM7,800 has never been the amount anyone had paid for a domestic helper from Indonesia.

And this was the market price used by recruitment agencies pre-pandemic and Malaysians had no choice but to use them.

Fast forward to 2022 when on April 1st, as Malaysia delicately enters the endemic phase, one of the much looked forward to events will be the re-openings of borders which will see the possible arrivals of domestic helpers from Indonesia into Malaysia.

April 1st is also the day Malaysia will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia on the hiring of domestic helpers which was put on hold due to the pandemic and also on the concerns of Indonesia in the way their domestic helpers have been treated in Malaysia.

Word on the streets is that the cost of hiring a domestic helper from Indonesia will now cost RM15,000 according to the President of the Association of Employment Agencies, Datuk Foo Yong Hooi, citing that there was no way RM7,800 was an amount that they can work with. He too was thoroughly shocked to have read the amount of RM7,800 as the cost for hiring domestic helpers from Indonesia.

By now, the general mood is that this amount is bound to skyrocket up to RM30,000 as cited by some agencies – and Malaysians are not surprised at this amount although sorely disappointed.

If indeed RM15,000 is inked as the amount to be paid, in lump sum, as cost to hire a domestic helper from Indonesia then what is the breakdown of the amount?

Employment agencies are in the business of profiting from recruiting domestic helpers to be brought in to work here. Over the years it appears that these agencies had set the market rate at tens of thousands of ringgit for an employer to pay for a domestic helper in spite of the amount stated as RNM7,800 stated by the Deputy Minister in the Dewan Rakyat the other day.

What assurance do Malaysians have that the proposed RM15,000 will not balloon into an exorbitant amount that will deem them helpless and unable to cough up and pay in lump sum to hire a domestic helper?

The pandemic with endless lockdowns with businesses having to make cutbacks and eventually shutting down has made many to pinch into their savings and even their EPF withdrawals.

How will single mothers and single fathers pay this amount for them to juggle their time and energy between work and home without this precious help?

How will families with both husbands and wives who are breadwinners for their families, families with aging relatives or a special family member afford a domestic helper if it is capped at RM15,000 by the Government but mushroom into something bigger later on?

The question of the amount to be paid is in no way undermining the amount of work, dedication and care from a domestic helper who works tirelessly in the new family she is in after making the tough decision to leave her own family to seek “greener pastures” here. The concern here is how much is being paid to the Malaysian and Indonesian Government agencies and for what purpose and how much to the hiring agencies and middle men (if any)?

How much of the RM15,000 is given to the domestic helper?

I believe this is the crux of the issue here. The transparency of the amount set as the cost of hiring a domestic helper and who gets a slice of the pie and who goes home with crumbs.

In a time and age where there is a lack of affordable childcare for working adults, Malaysians are dependent on domestic helpers in their day-to-day lives and the move to open up the hiring of domestic helpers is genuinely welcomed by all but there has to be a mechanism in place to monitor or report maid agencies who violate the MoU in hiring domestic helpers and also to prevent domestic helpers to be victims of trafficking, slavery and abuse.

We all have a part to play in this – law, policies, guidelines and enforcement to be carried out by the Government, responsibility to bring in domestic helpers who know and understand their duties as a domestic helper through legal and official paperwork by recruitment and hiring agencies and for Malaysians to be better versions of ourselves in the way we care, treat and behave towards our domestic helpers.

It is up to us to set this standard that we respect, protect and look after our domestic helpers as they would do the same for us.

Kasthuri Patto
DAP Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan

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