by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE
BATU Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto is urging the Ministry of Human Resource (MoHR) to be transparent on the breakdown of the RM15,000 cost of hiring a domestic helper under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indonesia, which will be signed on April 1.
She noted that the rate set by the ministry was contrary to market figures and asked for assurances that the new rate would not skyrocket once the MoU is signed.
The Opposition lawmaker said the hiring amount given by the Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Awang Hashim in his parliamentary reply to her was capped at RM6,000 to RM7,800 on the Malaysian part and RM1,800 on the Indonesian part, which was the “standard” amount paid by employers.
She pointed out that the hiring amount was way below the market price, which is around RM15,000 to RM20,000 per helper.
“Word on the streets is that the cost of hiring a domestic helper from Indonesia will now cost RM15,000 according to the president of the Association of Employment Agencies, Datuk Foo Yong Hooi, citing that there was no way RM7,800 was an amount that they can work with.
“He too was thoroughly shocked to have read the amount of RM7,800 as the cost for hiring domestic helpers from Indonesia.
“By now, the general mood is that this amount is bound to skyrocket up to RM30,000 as cited by some agencies — and Malaysians are not surprised at this amount although sorely disappointed,” she said in a statement yesterday.
Kasthuri added that as employment agencies are in the business of profiting from recruiting domestic helpers, it appears over the years that they had set the market rate at tens of thousands of ringgit in spite of the amount stated at RM7,800.
“What assurance do Malaysians have that the proposed RM15,000 will not balloon into an exorbitant amount that will deem them helpless and unable to cough up and pay in lump sum to hire a domestic helper?
“The pandemic with endless lockdowns, businesses having to make cutbacks and eventually shutting down has forced many to pinch into their savings and even their EPF (Employees Provident Fund) withdrawals.
“How will single parents pay this amount, while juggling their time and energy between work and home without help?
“How will families ageing or handicapped family members afford a domestic helper if it is capped at RM15,000 by the government, but mushroom into something bigger later on?”
Kasthuri said the question of the cost in no way undermines the amount of work, dedication and care from a domestic helper who has left her own family to seek “greener pastures” here.
She noted that the concern is how much is being paid to the Malaysian and Indonesian government agencies, the hiring agencies and middle men, if any.
“How much of the RM15,000 goes to the domestic helper?”
Kasthuri emphasised that in a time and age when there is a lack of affordable childcare for working adults, Malaysians are dependent on domestic helpers in their day-to-day lives.
Therefore, she said the move to open up the hiring of domestic helpers is genuinely welcomed by all, but a mechanism must be in place to monitor or report agencies that violate the MoU and also to prevent domestic helpers from being victims of trafficking, slavery and abuse.