Friday, April 29, 2011

The Maid - Reliable? Biodatas

Employers Burnt By Misleading Biodata

MANY employers have been the victims of unreliable biodata provided to them by maid agencies.
Gina D. 51, working mother of four.
In 2006, I applied for a maid who was supposed to be 35 years old as stated in the biodata provided to me. She could pass for 35 from her photograph as well. However, when I picked her up from the agency I was shocked at how much older she looked.
She was definitely in her 50s or even older. I later found out that her hair was actually almost completely white and she had been dyeing it black to cover it up.
When I confronted my agency, they said that maids sometimes lie about their age. They couldn’t have known, they said, as the Indonesian agencies just send them the biodatas and the photos and they distribute that to their customers who make a choice.
As I really needed the help and didn’t want to go through the process of applying for another one, I thought I’d give her a chance.
We tried for a year before I decided to send her back. Because of her age she was very difficult to work with and would answer back frequently.
I can’t confirm if they let her work with someone else but I think she must have left the country as I applied for a check-out memo after deciding to send her back.
Once you apply for a check-out memo, the maid has to leave the country by a certain date and if she hadn’t left I wouldn’t have been able to apply for a replacement maid (which I was able to do).
Stretching the truth: Some agencies falsify biodata to make maids appear bigger and stronger than they actually are.
Susan, homemaker, mother of three.
I once had an underaged maid who lied about her age. In her biodata she had listed down her age as 24 or 25 but when she arrived you could tell she was very young. It turned out that she was only 15 and she didn’t know anything! She told me that the agency asked her to lie about her age or she would not be allowed into the country. I held on to her for as long as I could but in the end she just couldn’t handle the work
Another problem is when they claim to have worked with children before but when they come you can tell that they actually haven’t. I’ve not really sent back many maids before their contract has ended.
The agencies never take responsibility anyway. You tend to just ignore what you read in the biodata because you end up having to train them all over again.
From the biodata you choose a maid based on if you’re happy with her face, and that she’s physically well or can be at home alone and take care of dogs. The agencies are not going to bother checking either if they can actually do what they say.
Once when I was living with my mother-in-law, we had a maid who was three months pregnant when she arrived! We actually confronted the agency about it but they said they weren’t responsible as the maids are supposed to undergo a screening in Indonesia.
I think employers are victims in the sense that this maid had worked for my mother-in-law less than a year, and they said they’d give her another maid but she still had to pay all over again because the local agency wasn’t liable.
CG, KL, working mother of one.
My husband worked in Indonesia for a long time and from what he knew and from what people have told us, we didn’t want to employ a maid from this particular region of Indonesia as they are known to be aggressive. We made sure our agency knew that.
I picked my maid from all the biodata given to me because she fulfilled certain criteria and had completed her Form 5.
When she showed up, however, it turned out that she was from that region we weren’t keen on!
Also despite her biodata saying otherwise, she couldn’t cook. She had a horrible attitude – she was always falling ill and waking up late, probably because she was using the phone till late at night.
So after five months of her behaviour, we decided to send her back. We dropped her off at the agency who later told us she was being sent back to Indonesia.
I never went into her room as I respected her privacy, but when she left I had to. I found that she had been stealing things like money and had vandalised all my antique furniture in her room!
My agency never reimbursed us or even apologised.
Of course, there are agencies who now allow you to interview them (potential maids) over webcam but you can’t really trust that because it could be rehearsed.
I feel very violated and taken advantage of by that maid agency. I think it is the government’s fault really for never having put into place real procedures or ensuring that agencies’ standards are maintained.
Paula S, working mother of two.
In 2004, I applied for a maid to take care of my elderly mother. On both her biodata and her working permit, her age was listed as 25 years old. As she was tall we didn’t question it.
The next year when we were celebrating her birthday, we asked her how old she was going to be and she told us that she was only 19! She said the agency in Indonesia had asked her to lie about her age otherwise she wouldn’t get a job.
We didn’t inform the Malaysian agency so we don’t really know if they knew her real age.
But even if I had known then that she was only 18 when she came, I probably would have still employed her unless it was illegal as she was emotionally mature.
Low W.S. 54, homemaker, mother of three.
About seven or eight years ago, I employed an Indonesian maid. Her biodata was all right – she was 28 and had a husband and kids.
When she got here, though, and started working she was always complaining that she was tired at the end of the day, which didn’t seem right because she was so young. I suspected she was pregnant but didn’t say anything.
There’s supposed to be a screening procedure in Indonesia to make sure the maids aren’t pregnant before they are sent here. But maybe technology was different back then and they didn’t detect it.
However, after working for two months, I confronted her and she admitted that she was pregnant. I took her to a doctor and discovered that she was five months pregnant! So, of course, I sent her back to the agency and got a replacement maid.


Maid To Fit The Bill

For most people who are seeking to hire foreign maids, the biodata is their first introduction to their potential employee. However, the information it contains has proven to be not as truthful as it should be.
WITH her mother’s worsening health, Marie Gomez has no choice but to hire a foreign maid to help care for her. But after hearing numerous hair-raising stories about maids from hell, Gomez is being extra careful in the selection process.
“It is definitely not easy when you only have a stack of biodata to base your selection on. There is no guarantee that all the information submitted is true,” she says.
Even the pictures provided with the biodata raise doubts.
“The prospective domestic workers claim to be of average weight but they look really frail and scrawny in the pictures,” relates Gomez.
“I thought I had found one who looks strong and sturdy enough to look after my mother and help lift her if needed, but then I realised that her picture was stretched sideways to make her look bigger than she really is. In fact she is as scrawny as the rest.”
Age limit: The rule, according to the last memorandum of understanding between Malaysia and Indonesia, is that Indonesian domestic workers who are selected for work in Malaysia must be at least 21 years old and no more than 45. – Filepic
Falsification of biodata, including for their official documents, among foreign domestic workers is more rampant than we realise.
Chan G. from Kuala Lumpur likens selecting a maid from a biodata to buying a lottery ticket.
Says the working mother of one, “I picked my maid from all the biodata given to me because she fulfilled certain criteria and had completed her secondary schooling. When she showed up, however, she was nothing like what she claimed to be.”
Despite her biodata saying otherwise, she could not cook and her attitude was bad, she adds.
“She rang up a phone bill of RM1,400 at my house. She was completely disloyal and unreliable. We discovered later on that she was entertaining people at our home when we were not around as weird people began showing up at our doorstep. When I confronted her about her attitude three or four months after she came to us, she told me that she had not wanted to be a maid but had wanted to work at a factory instead. So we decided to send her back to the agent who promised to send her back to Indonesia.”
A few months after her maid left, says Chan, she started receiving threatening messages from her.
“I learnt later that she was not sent back to Indonesia and is now working for a new employer in Malaysia. My agency never reimbursed us or even apologised,” she says, adding that she will never hire a full-time maid again after her experience.
The biodata is basically a resume for the maid. It contains information about the identity, age and experience of the maid and other details such as their working preferences, willingness to handle pork, take care of dogs or care for the elderly.
“In many situations, however, this information is made up by the agents to make the maids more marketable,” says Migrant Care Malaysia country director Alex Wong.
Many employers keep mum when their domestic workers fail to live up to their biodata or when they find discrepancies in the information provided because “returning” them will cost money.
Employers would have to pay an additional “exchange” fee of between RM,1000 and RM3,000 for a replacement maid, or start the process all over again, forking out the standard fee of RM8,000 as required when one seeks to hire a foreign maid.
Wong alleges that this has created a “business” where some agencies sell their migrant workers to different employers after they are found wanting and sent back by their original employer.
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Alwi Bavutty views this claim as rubbish but concedes that many foreign domestic workers who are sent to Malaysia, especially those from Indonesia, do falsify their personal details when applying for their passport and visa.
“But there is not much we can do because they are supposed to be screened before they come over,” he says.
Maid agency director Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan agrees, stressing that the biodata is a necessary evil because it provides an insight of the maid’s background for employers.
“It is for employers to choose according to their specification. Once they agree, they have to pay the Indonesian agent a 10% deposit to secure the biodata or to book the domestic worker.
Raja Zulkepley: ‘The biodata is a necessary evil because it provides an insight of the maid’s background’
“Most of the payment goes to the Indonesian agent. Our profit is only around RM630 per maid and we have to pay for our office expenses and staff,” he says.
Wong attributes the problem to the hiring system in place.
“True, currently the biodata is the only way that employers can check out the candidates but what you see on paper is often not what you get,” he says.
This has led to numerous cases of maids running away because they are not willing to handle dogs or pork, although their biodata clearly states otherwise.
“Malaysian employers need to be smart ‘consumers’ when they deal with the agencies instead of acting desperately and giving in to all the demands of the agents when they don’t do anything other than provide the biodata,” stresses Wong.
They need to ensure that the domestic workers they receive are trained. In Indonesia, for example, the regulation is that they get 200 hours of training. There are agencies who do not follow the regulation but they claim they do.
Malaysian agents are also supposed to “retrain” the maids they receive before dispatching them to the employer to ensure that they are able to do the work they have been hired for. Unfortunately, this is not a regulation in Malaysia.
Wong highlights that there are many Indonesian domestic workers who are lured to Malaysia to work as factory workers or shop assistants.
“Some even have it stated in their employment contract but when they get here, they are forced to become domestic workers because that is a more lucrative market. This causes a lot of bad blood between the employers and domestic workers,” he says.
Tenaganita programme coordinator Aegile Fernandez concurs, saying that many are sweet-talked into working abroad.
“They are promised lots of money and a better life to come to Malaysia. Some are promised other jobs – like work in a restaurant – but when they arrive they are forced to be maids.
“But they are bound to the agency because they have either spent a lot of money or owe the agency money for the ‘expenses’ to come to Malaysia. Some are even threatened with prostitution,” she says.
Wong believes that many Malaysian agents are colluding with their overseas counterparts to falsify the biodata and other documents of the foreign maids.
The most common “lie” is the age of the prospective domestic worker.
This is well demonstrated by the recent case of the underage maid who torched her employer’s sister’s home in Terengganu after he decided to send her back to Indonesia.
Early investigations revealed that she had gained entry with a proper but allegedly falsified document, which listed a fake name and birth date.
While the police were baffled about how she manipulated her personal details, anyone with a foreign maid at home or those who have gone through the experience of hiring one will vouch that this is part and parcel of the process of hiring a foreign maid.
The rule, according to the last memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Malaysia and Indonesia (we are currently in the midst of negotiations on a new one), is that Indonesian domestic workers who are selected for work in Malaysia must be at least 21 years old and no more than 45.
However, industry insiders say that the accepted average minimum age for Indonesian maids in Malaysia is 18, which is the minimum age allowed for Indonesians to work abroad.
The situation is that in most areas in Indonesia, registration of citizens is not strict while the control system is loose, so there are many abuses.
Most of the poor in rural villages don’t even bother to register their newborn babies for birth certificates or get proper identification papers (ID) when they come of age, he says.
“Many only do it when they want to work as a migrant or domestic worker. They are then assisted by their sponsors, who help process their paperwork to create their identity and get their ID for the purpose of applying for a passport and visa.
“To get a passport, the documentation requirement is more stringent but with a small payment, the process can be made easier and faster,” Wong says.
This is a common practice in Indonesia, he adds, and this is common knowledge among Malaysian agents who use it to their advantage.
“Many Malaysian agents just accept whatever documents and whoever the Indonesian agents send over to them without question. When problems arise, they pass the blame and responsibility back to the Indonesian agents.”
Alwy denies this, stressing that most of the time the minors get through our immigration gates because the documents are genuine.
“It is difficult for us to verify if the data is true or not. If it is accepted by the Indonesian authorities, we should accept it. We do have our own measures to check this; we will interview the candidates to ascertain their real age when we suspect that they are younger than they claim,” he says.
Fernandez warns employers who are landed with an underaged maid to report the case to the authorities.
“If you suspect that a maid is young, send her back and report the agency to the authorities. It is illegal to bring in underaged maids; it could surmount to human trafficking,” she says.
These underaged domestic workers are usually not able to handle the work or the conditions of the work, being isolated from other people and, more often than not, having no means of communication with their families back home.
“They do not have the maturity yet at that age to handle their emotions, what more when they are alone in a strange country. That is why some of them ‘explode’ and take revenge on their employers,” she cautions, citing the case of a 16-year-old Indonesian maid who stabbed her employer’s mother to death in Kuantan in 2008 after she allegedly got tired of the old lady’s nagging and scolding.
Employers really need to keep in mind that these underaged maids are basically still children, she adds.
“At 14 to 16 years old, for example, a girl is young and still wants to have fun. Many do not want to spend their days cooped up doing long hours of housework.”

Both Sources: The Star


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