Malaysia to hire maids from south Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: Agencies that supply foreign maids in Malaysia on Wednesday welcomed a government plan to allow recruitment from India, Nepal, Laos and Vietnam to fill a shortage caused by low wages and reports of abuse.

"We were waiting" for this decision, said Raja Zulkepley Dahalan, president of the Malaysian Association of Foreign Housemaids Agencies. "Of course we support this."

He said Malaysia would need to hire at least 1,000 maids every month to alleviate the shortage. "We have a problem now, 94.8 per cent of the maids are from Indonesia. We cannot depend so much on one source," he said.

He said fewer Indonesian maids are applying to work in Malaysia because salaries here are lower than in other countries, and also because many are scared away by media reports that maids are physically abused by Malaysian employers.

Reports have highlighted several abuse cases in past months. In the most publicized case, a maid escaped her allegedly abusive employer's 15th floor apartment with a rope made of towels, sheets and clothes.

In August, another maid was found murdered in her employers' home. The employer has been charged with the murder. But Raja Zulkepley said some of the other reports of abuse were exaggerated in the regional media.

Malaysian officials have insisted such cases are rare among the country's almost 320,000 foreign maids. Besides Indonesia, about 5 percent of maids come from the Philippines, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Indonesian maids typically earn 500 ringgit (US$147; euro105) per month while Filipinos earn about 1,300 ringgit (US$380; euro275) per month.

On Tuesday, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said that as of Sept. 30, there were more than 2 million foreigners working in mainly manufacturing, plantations, homes, construction and service industries. More than half of them come from Indonesia.

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