Tuesday, September 8, 2009

'Minimum wage may lead to more illegal workers'

By Minderjeet Kaur and Nurul Huda Jamaluddin

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia's proposal of a RM800 minimum wage for its nationals working as maids in Malaysia may have negative repercussions for Malaysia.

Malaysians may resort to hiring Indonesian maids illegally and abuse cases could go unreported as the maids may worry about being deported.

This scenario was given by Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam when asked on Indonesia's proposal yesterday.

He said the government had yet to be officially notified of Indonesia's proposal.

The bilateral meeting over the weekend saw both sides discussing agency fees and the maids' days off,

"The issue of salary was not brought up or we could have responded to it."

Furthermore, the issue was tied to a memorandum of understanding signed two years ago, where the two sides agreed to allow the monthly wages to be decided by market forces.

"If we want to change this, we will have to amend the MoU.

"The Philippines, for example, has set a minimum wage and if Indonesia does that, then we will leave it up to the locals if they want to hire Indonesian domestic helpers."

Subamaniam also said the government had informed Indonesian agents to provide training for the maids before sending them here.

A minimum of one month's training, including induction training, is required to prepare the maids coming to work in Malaysia.

On the "one day off a week" request, he said it could only be done after the Labour Act 1955 was amended at the next Parliament sitting.

Meanwhile, agencies handling foreign maids said the minimum salary of RM800 for the Indonesian maids was not commensurate with their qualifications.

Citing an example, Manpower Placement recruitment agency manager Jessica Lim said Indonesian maids in Singapore had to sit for entry exams and had to be fluent in the English language.

"Malaysian employers are more accommodating. They tolerate 'lower standard' maids because the salary is much lower.

"But if there is a salary hike, it will be tough for Malaysian employers as most cannot afford them."

Malaysian Association of Foreign Maids Agencies (Papa) secretary Foo Yong Hooi said the proposed minimum salary will be a burden to families.

"Inclusive of food and lodgings, families may end up spending more than RM1,000 monthly on their maid.

"With the current standard of living, it is absurd." - NST

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