Jakarta’s minimum wage demand stalls talks on lifting ban
(KUALA LUMPUR) Tens of thousands of Malaysian households have been thrown into domestic chaos as a shortage of maids hits a country with a long-standing addiction to cheap foreign labour.
Nearly two million foreigners, mostly from Indonesia, are registered to work in Malaysian homes, shops, factories and plantations, and many more are undocumented, making Malaysia one of Asia’s biggest importers of labour.
Maids from Indonesia, who toil for as little as RM400 (S$168) a month, have no laws governing their working conditions and a spate of shocking abuse cases prompted Jakarta to declare a ban on new arrivals in June 2009.
In an attempt to stem the mistreatment of domestic workers who have been raped, scalded with boiling water and branded with hot irons, the two governments opened negotiations for a formal labour agreement.
However, the talks have stumbled over Indonesia’s demand for a minimum wage, prolonging the ban and causing serious inconvenience for families left without a helper – some 35,000 households, according to an industry figure.