Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Maid - Squeezing Dry The Employers (4)

Maid Via The Black Market

KUALA LUMPUR – Freelance recruitment agents are making big bucks by supplying maids to Malaysian employers through the 'black market.'
A probe by national daily The Star showed that the continuing high demand for Indonesian domestic helpers, despite a temporary ban in place, has created this lucrative, albeit illegal,  recruitment of maids.
maid-4Most pf the people involved are freelance individuals - who dubbeed themselves as agents - who have contact with similar kind of people in Indonesia.
Both parties are not tied to any associations in their respective countries.
Therefore, they can supply maids “under the radar” despite the supply freeze imposed nearly a year ago by the Indonesian government.
Hefty increase in recruitment fee
One 'agent' here told the paper that business had been good despite a hefty increase in the recruitment fee.
Before the freeze, the recruitment fee charged by an agency was about RM5,000, inclusive of payments for levy, work permit, airfare and six months' salary.
Now, the fee can go as high as RM10,000.
An executive from Bukit Mertajam said it was difficult to raise RM9,400 for the agent but she was desperate to get help to look after her mother.
The woman, who gave her name only as Tan, said the agent agreed to get a maid from Indonesia provided she (Tan) personally applies to the Immigration Department for a one-year calling visa to allow the helper to work here.
Discussion between PM and Susilo
It is learnt that a high-level meeting held last Friday between the Home Ministry and Indonesia's Manpower and Transmigration Ministry finally broke the impasse on the issue between the two countries.
A memorandum of understanding on maids is expected to be signed during the visit here of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The signing will be witnessed by the Indonesian president and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak after their retreat on Tuesday.— Malaysian Mirror.

Source: Malaysian Mirror - Monday, May 17, 2010  


I was approached by a number of friends in JB who asked me to get maids, or helpers from Batam, as I often visit the place. 

Sad it seem, the shortage of maids really affect normalcy in some households I know. 
I know of Indonesians from faraway, stationing themselves in Batam, hoping to work in country across it.

Ironically, I was approached by a number of Indonesians in Batam who made their wish known to Me. 
They wanted My help. 
They wanted to work, any type of work available, in Singapore (???) 

I was even approached by someone who was prepared to provide rotating female house helpers, again, to work in Singapore. 
When I mentioned of knowing many households in JB that need helpers, they were not keen, as they work for money, and they go after the exchange rate. 


Indonesian Women Slaves Saved from Malaysian Hell

Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian authorities rescued 71 Indonesian women who claimed they were forced to work long hours as cleaners without pay for at least two years, an official said Monday.

Immigration officials raided a house where the women were staying after three of them fled and alerted authorities, said Nar Azaman Ibrahim, the immigration enforcement chief of Malaysia’s northern Kedah state. The women were kept at the house and sent to different homes for daily cleaning jobs.

The women entered neighboring Malaysia through a migrant worker recruitment agent who promised to find them work as maids for 500 ringgit ($160) a month. But when they arrived, the man took away their passports and forced them to clean homes every day without any time off, Nar Azaman said.

Most of the women, including one as young as 17, had never been paid, but were promised they would receive money eventually, Nar Azaman said.

The man who held them has been arrested and could be charged with human trafficking, an offense that carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

The women are now at a shelter in an illegal migrant detention center near Kuala Lumpur.

Nearly 2 million foreigners, mostly from poorer regional countries, work in Malaysia’s construction, plantation, manufacturing and service industries. Claims of overwork, unpaid salaries and sometimes even physical abuse are common. - Associated Press.

Source: The Jakarta Globe - July 26, 2010

Safi invited us to her house-warming.  

When we reached Safi's house, I could see that Zah was reluctant to leave the car. 
Tears trickled from her eyes. 

I was happy for Safi. 
She got the resale corner-lot house, with mango tree loaded of ready-to-eat, ready-to-pluck fruits.
The house is strategically located not far from Giant Supermarket and other amenities, at a great bargain price, less than RM200,000. 
Wasn't Zah happy for Safi too?  

I had it all wrong, she said. 
She was happy for Safi, but was terribly hurt by the previous owner of the house. 

Zah used to drop by that particular house. 
The previous owner,who owns a maid agency, used to be her good friend for many, many years. 
Naturally, she turned to her this good friend for maids. 
She never failed her, not until the last time, about a year ago. 

After she gave her a deposit of RM3,000 for a new maid, after a three months lapse, she called her, no answer. 
She dropped by her place, nobody at home. 
She did not want to lose a valued friendship at the cost of only RM3,000. 

Now, after slightly more than a year, Zah is still without maid. 
She asked Me to help her getting one in Batam, but I have not the heart to tell her that they will work anytime if it is Singapore.

I asked her to tag with Me along to Batam.
I  promised her I'll get help from friend over there to bring us to the place where maid agency placed their potential house-helpers.  
But Zah would still prefer her good friend where agency is concerned. 
Such a loyal friend! 

She knew her friend is in great difficulties, especially at the time when Indonesian maids' entry to Malaysia is still pending.
When Zah knew that Safi bought the house she used to spend her evenings, her heart thumped aloud. 

The maid agency owner knew Zah is looking for a house very badly. 
And, Zah had umpteenth times told her, should she intended to sell her house, Zah is the first ready buyer.

Instead, she sold it to Zah's other good friend, which she wasn't aware of.


Good Help Is Harder To Find 

Malaysians are grousing that hiring foreign maids these days is more costly and time-consuming, and recruitment agencies say the situation may well continue if certain problems in the industry are not addressed.
WHEN work commitments for Tan S.K. and his wife demanded more of their time, it left them less for domestic matters. He then decided to hire a foreign maid to help with chores around the house and to look after his two young children.
He soon discovered that hiring a foreign maid could be a frustrating process. The time needed before they could get the maid was lengthy, not to mention the initial cost involved.
Feeling at home: Although other countries pay better salaries, Indonesian maids are more comfortable working in Malaysia as there is no language barrier and they are free to practise their religion.
“From the time that I approached a maid agency to actually getting one took six months. I also had to fork out about RM7,500 even before I saw her in person.
“Furthermore, the maid was unsuitable and we requested a replacement — and we had to go through the whole process again. Fortunately, it only took about three months the second time,” Tan says.
This meant it took nine months before he had a live-in maid. With all the hassle he had to go through — not to mention the addition of another person to the household — Tan has decided not to hire another when the current contract expires.
“I don’t know how much a maid is going to cost me in future, and with what I have gone through, I don’t feel it is worth the hassle. I will probably look for part-time maid services then.”
Tan’s experience is one that is becoming increasingly common, but this is a situation that has been developing over the last five years.
According to Malaysian Association Of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan, the most obvious reason is there is a shortage of maids from Indonesia, where Malaysia obtains about 95% of its maids.
“We are not only facing a shortage but an acute shortage! It is very serious, and our business has dropped by about 60%,” he says, adding that the situation worsened considerably over the last two years.
Raja Zulkepley informs that maids from other countries such as Cambodia and the Philippines are allowed, but the popular choice is Indonesia mainly because of lower wages lower compared to other countries.
“Malaysians prefer Indonesians as they are very good. They suit the job demands here, and communication is less of a problem,” he says.
"The salary is in line with the cost of living here"- FIONA LOW
Unpopular choice
Potential employers may find difficulty in obtaining a maid, but those facing bigger pressure are the maid agencies themselves. Describes Agensi Pekerjaan Sentosa SB director K.C. Lau, “The last two years were particularly bad, but from the end of 2004, we could feel it was getting difficult. This could be because Hong Kong and Taiwan opened up to hiring foreign maids.
“I have much difficulty meeting my target – it was a lot easier before. I could easily obtain 20 to 30 maids from each supplier back then, but can only get about four or five now.”
Lam*, from a KL-based agency, says her recruitment has reduced by 40%.
“Three years ago, I could obtain 500 maids a month, now it is less than 300,” she says, adding that many smaller agencies have stopped operating or want to sell their licences.
Agensi Pekerjaan Sri Nadin Sdn Bhd general manager Fiona Low, however, believes there is no shortage of potential maids in Indonesia. “People there know how to compare (between countries) and can choose where they want to go, and this affects the volume coming in.”
Raja Zulkepley believes there are many reasons why the supply of maids from Indonesia is dwindling. One is that the maids themselves, and the recruitment agencies, prefer other countries.
It essentially boils down to a matter of dollars and cents. Other countries pay higher salaries than Malaysia, he says. For example, maids in Taiwan are paid about RM2,400 a month; Hong Kong, RM1,700; Singapore and the Middle East, RM800. In Malaysia they are paid about RM600.
But Low believes that this should not be a factor. “The salary is what we (Malaysians) can offer at the moment, and it is in line with the cost of living here. You cannot compare this with other countries.”
She adds, “Not all maids are looking at the prospect of money — it is to do with their comfort level. Malaysia is still one of the nearest countries, has the same religion, and some may also have relatives here.”
Lam disagrees, insisting that the wage disparity cannot be ignored.
“Wages here are very low compared to other countries. If you were a maid, where would you want to go?”
Furthermore, there is a difference in which party has to pay for getting the maid into the country.
Says Lau, “Under the Malaysian system, both employer and maid have to pay (respective agencies) money, but in the Middle East, the employer pays everything. The maids just go there to work. Most have to take a loan to come to Malaysia, but not so for the Middle East.”
Lam adds that for countries like Taiwan, maids are even willing to pay recruiters for the opportunity to work there.
Question of cost
Another point is that maid suppliers in Indonesia are paid higher agency fees by other countries compared to Malaysia, reveals Lau.
“Other countries are giving higher agency fees, so in order to be competitive, we have to give higher fees too. From the year 2005, it has almost doubled. Last time, we paid about RM3,000 for each maid. Now it is about RM5,000 to RM6,000,” he says.
Adds Low, “This is a free market and (trade) depends on a willing buyer and seller. If somebody has a better offer, you will have to pay more than usual.”
A common complaint among employers is the high cost involved in obtaining a maid from Indonesia. Currently, one has to pay at least RM7,500.
“People always put the blame on local maid agencies, and say we are making excess profits, but this is something beyond our control,” says Raja Zulkepley.
The actual cost is significantly less, Low says. “Actually, employers only pay about RM4,500 to get a maid.”
She explains that in most instances, the maid will not have to be paid for the first six months.
“The additional sum is a loan of sorts that employers give to the maid,” she says, adding that this is usually used to pay for miscellaneous expenses such as travel and training received in Indonesia.
Negative perception
Another factor is that Malaysia is perceived by some as a bad country to work in.
“The reputation of Malaysia is very bad,” says Raja Zulkepley. One reason for this is abuse cases in Malaysia are excessively highlighted in the press.
“There are also similar cases of abuse in Singapore, Taiwan, or the Middle East, for example, but they are not played up as much, so they think that Malaysia is not a good country,” he says.
Lam agrees, saying: “In Malaysia, it will be in the news for a few weeks and then we forget about it. But it is different in Indonesia; it can drag on for months!”
This is compounded by the fact that significant numbers of Indonesians are working illegally in the country.
“Because of this they are not protected and many are not treated fairly by employers — ranging from not getting paid to being abused. When these girls go home, they spread the word,” says Raja Zulkepley.
On the time span involved in getting a maid, Raja Zulkeply says it takes a long time to complete the procedure before maids can work in the country.
“Bringing foreign maids into our country will incur a lot of red tape. Sometimes it can take as long as two to three months,” he explains, adding that in this time, suppliers incur the cost of providing for the maids’ board and lodging.
He gives the example of Singapore, where approvals can be obtained within two or three days. For the Middle East, block visas are provided, with specific individual visas given upon arrival.
Lam points out a loophole where employers can send maids home without informing the agency.
“This can give rise to many problems such as abuse, rape or unpaid salaries. The employer can send them home and agencies or the Government won’t know anything about it. If they have to go through the agency there will be better control.”
Raja Zulkepley believes that Papa can play a significant role in streamlining the industry. “In order to become more efficient, all Malaysian maid agencies must be members of Papa. This was actually approved by the Immigration Department in June 2007, but has never been enforced.”
New source countries
One major benefit, he says, is that as a united front, it can get better rates from the suppliers. He says that Papa has also called for the reduction of the minimum age of incoming Indonesian maids from 21 to 18 in addition to calling for new source countries — China in particular.
But until then, local maid agencies have to work within existing constraints.
Says Lau, “Fortunately, our profits are about the same, but capital investment has gone up considerably. We could make one Ringgit for every two spent before, but now we need four! And who wants to raise their prices? This is bad for business! If we keep it low, everyone can afford a maid.”
Low believes the difficulty in obtaining maids will remain as the status quo.
“It is already like this. We hope that people will understand the difficulties and be more tolerant.”
Concludes Lam, “The cost of recruiting maids rose faster than the price of petrol! Many things in the industry are out of our control, and keep in mind that we are dealing with humans, not products. This line of work is very difficult, and I am tired and find it very hard to continue. We may have been able to make good money last time, but not any more.”
* Name has been changed.

Source: The Star - Sunday, January 11, 2009


Paola Evans said...

- Anemometer in Bangladesh 1 - 3 of 3. He worked at the Detroit Free Press in Detroit, Michigan. Great public speakers, in my experience, are people who speak loudly and clearly enough that can be distinctly heard by people listening to them. It includes reciprocating saws, spiral saws, power drills, cordless screwdrivers, portable band saws and these are carried along either with the help of modern tools bags, an electrician's belt or an electricians pouch so that the tools are placed in order and does not get misplaced.

Anonymous said...

I recently approached a maid agency Q Resources Sdn Bhd was was told that the agent fee is RM13,000 for Indonesian maid and I have to wait for a minimum period of 3 months for the maid to arrive.

Anonymous said...

another agent in Taman Tun Dr ismail Venesa Maid Agency is charging RM11,000 for indonesian main. Processing of maid permit will be done by the Employer.