I first wrote briefly about this issue on last Thursday, 18th June but since it continues to attract a lot of media attention, I thought I should elaborate on this matter.
Ever since the Minister of Human Resource suggested giving maids a one-day off, there has been an ongoing debate about the merits and the demerits of giving the maids a one-day off a week. In principle, it sounds good. As an employee, they are entitled to one-day off per week. However, the suggestion raises more questions than answers. Hence, it looks as if it is a knee jerk reaction from the Ministry of Human Resource.
While we have to safe guard the interest of the employee, we should not forget that the interest of the employers should also be protected. There are 2 sides of the coin. Employers will have horror stories to tell you about their domestic maid.
There are about 250,000 to 300,000 maids in our country. Most of the maids are from Indonesia with a small number from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Philippines. Any Indonesian maid can easily blend into our society because of the similarities in language, food and facial look. Last year, I am given to understand that more than 10,000 maids ran away from their employers for various reasons and they cannot be traced. Cases of maid been abused numbered about 50 last year. While no maid should be abused, it is obvious that the number of maids that are abused are small in numbers, but because of the adverse publicity generated, it gives the impression that Malaysian employers are not humane. The press doesn’t highlight the 10,000 domestic helpers who just disappeared into the thin air. Hence, we have to have a balance picture of the domestic maids in this country.
If the one-day off is really implemented, who is to enforce this? It will have to involve many Ministries, from Human Resource to the Immigration and the Police just to enforce this bearing in mind that there are many maids who are illegal. The risk of maids absconding will definitely go up. Then there is this question that the maid on the day off will definitely need to go out. Their outside friends will be a cause of worry to the employers. I am one of those victims where my maid’s boyfriend having gained access to my house, stole whatever they can lay their hands on while we were away.
Malaysians should not overreact to cases of abused maid. The sick employer will have to face the full forces of the law. Hence, any legislation should also take into consideration the interest of the employers. It should look into the question of enforcement. Without enforcement, the legislation will just be good on paper. Maid agency can play a more prominent role in helping to monitor the domestic maid. They are the one who are the first line of contact with the domestic maid.
As usual, Indonesia has threatened not to send maid to our country. If I’ve not forgotten, this is not the first and definitely not going to be the last that Indonesia has threatened Malaysia. A lot of Indonesians find Malaysia an ideal place to stay, either legally or illegally.
Indonesia faces double-digit unemployment figure. Foreign remittance by its citizens working overseas constitutes a substantial portion of the country’s direct revenue. Hence, Indonesia’s statement is more like political posturing, which is unlikely to happen.