KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of Malaysian hopefuls, who wish to secure help at home, have begun sourcing for foreign maids themselves, although most have yet to make any inroads.
Scores have gone online, asking for contacts and how to go about getting one the minute Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced on Friday that they were free to recruit maids directly from nine countries.
Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said the policy was to ensure that the process of hiring foreign domestic helpers was made easier and more affordable.
“The people now have the choice of either going through agents or doing it themselves.
“They can go to the source country and find the worker, and then register the worker with the Immigration’s online service, as announced by the prime minister. If the employers want to go through agents, it is up to them,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
Mustafar said although the levy and processing fees remained, the new option would allow employers to save on agency costs.
He said the department had a lengthy discussion with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also home minister, on the matter.
The government, he said, was aware that it could cost Malaysians between RM12,000 and RM18,000 to hire maids through employment agencies.
“We agreed that the people could always go to the source country and we discussed ways to make the processes easier and cheaper. The charges remain as before, just that there are no payments to be made to agents,” he said.
Thousands of Malaysian households gave a thumbs-up to the prime minister for allowing them to hire foreign domestic helpers directly.
Najib gave his commitment that the government would review the cost of hiring foreign domestic helpers, with a view of reducing it in the future.
Malaysian employers had been shunning maid agencies for the exorbitant prices they imposed.
It is understood that the new allowance for hiring maids is similar to a past system involving papers referred to as the “Journey Perform Visa”.
This category serves to legally allow those travelling on a social visit visa to join the foreign labour market here.
This “conversion” process must be done within a month and the worker must first be certified medically fit for employment.
There is, however, an issue that Malaysian employers may need to consider.
Indonesia, the most popular source country for Malaysians seeking domestic helpers, does not allow its citizens to seek employment in households directly. The only way under Indonesian law is for it to be done the business-to-business (B2B) way.
However, the Jakarta-sanctioned Indonesian Manpower Services Association (Apjati), an umbrella body for maid agencies in the country, said, it had a solution to the issue that would comply with the B2B arrangement, which had been agreed upon by both Malaysia and Indonesia.
Its president, Ayub Basalamah, told NST that under the official arrangement, Apjati members in Indonesia were legally barred from engaging Malaysian employers directly, but that this could be circumvented by having their members in Malaysia helping out.
He assured Malaysian employers that the cost they would be looking at was not as exorbitant as they had heard in recent years, as that involved Malaysian agents marking up the cost of the labour that Apjati members had sourced for and trained.
“There are no fewer than 200,000 trained maids ready for employment in Malaysia.
“Our members will ensure those sent to Malaysia are medically fit, including free of HIV, Hepatitis, bronchitis and leprosy, as well as trained for household chores. Our system also allows Malaysian employers to change helpers if they are unhappy with the ones given to them.
“It is not advisable for Malaysian employers to hire Indonesian helpers directly and pray and hope that they pass the compulsory Foreign Workers’ Medical Examination screening,” Ayub said.
The other source countries for domestic helpers are Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.