Putrajaya, Jakarta must be transparent with domestic helpers’ recruitment fee

A COALITION of domestic workers’ associations has urged the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to be transparent in establishing recruitment fee for Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers under the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) before the planned signing date in February 2022.

The group, Kearah 189, considers this vital in an environment where it can be risky for migrant domestic workers to work in Malaysia due to lack of laws and regulations that provide a comprehensive policy defending migrant workers’ rights.

In fact, even the rights of domestic workers are explicitly denied in the proposed revisions to the Employment Act’s First Schedule, according to Kearah 189.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan has told The Star that the recruitment fee for hiring one Indonesian domestic worker ranged from RM10,000 to RM15,000, including levies and quarantine cost for 14 days in Malaysia.

“This cost was not even provided in a detailed cost structure, and it left a question of who is going to bear this amount. The excessive fee of hiring domestic workers makes them more vulnerable to exploitative practices,” noted Saravanan.

In this regard, Kearah 189 said it is well aware of the dangers of high recruitment fees and its effects on the amount of work that will be required of a worker.

“We draw attention to the fact that the current discussion between Indonesia and Malaysia is already long overdue as the last MOU expired in 2016. While Indonesia acknowledges as a fact that there has been abuses of domestic workers in Malaysia, it needs to call for greater transparency in such an agreement,” opined Kearah 189 members Irene Xavier and Adrian Pereira.

“All relevant stakeholders’ views can be expressed when there is such transparency without the Governments being compelled to take any view. Transparency will allow the Governments to hear the views of parties concerned. We believe that in this manner the interests of the workers can be heard.”

Furthermore, Kearah 189 stressed that domestic workers do not have neutral parties or representative parties like a trade union of domestic workers to speak for them. The views of business interests such as recruitment agencies have more access to getting their voices heard.

As of December 2021, the Malaysian Immigration stated that 88.173 migrant domestic workers were registered in Malaysia under Pas Lawatan Kerja Sementara (PLKS) with Indonesian Domestic Workers dominating the figure.

The MOU which is expected to be signed soon would affect a substantial number of Indonesian migrant workers. As a result, Kearah 189 demanded the following:

  • KEARAH 189 and other stakeholders to be involved in the discussion over the MOU negotiation process, particularly to guarantee that the requirements of migrant domestic workers are included and discussed by both the Malaysian and Indonesian Governments and to make the MOU amendment more transparent.
  • The recruitment fee is set at a reasonable figure and that the current proposals of RM10,000 to RM15,000 are excessive.
  • Both Governments must ensure that workers are not charged any fees for recruiting or placement.
  • No MOU is complete unless the domestic worker has recourse to justice to raise concerns of non-compliance with the MOU or Malaysian labour regulations. This process must take into consideration the isolation of domestic workers and their lack of mobility to make complaints without fear of reprisals from errant employers. As a result, Kearah 189 proposes a Domestic Workers Act as well as a comprehensive migrant workers policy. – Jan 14, 2022

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