Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Foreign maids: Greater scrutiny needed

Adopting a more humane attitude towards maids

While the government may mean well in its decision to hold courses for the employers and their maids but I am afraid such a means may not achieve its desired aim to improve the employer-maid working relationship thereby reducing the incidents of maid abuse.

The incidence of problematic employer-maid relationship is rather low and the Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam himself admits that it is as low as 1%.It is difficult to understand why the government has to resort to organizing courses when the 99% of such relationships are satisfactory. It is reported that about 280,000 maids are presently working in the country. One can imagine the monumental task of organizing courses for such a large number of them with an equal number of their employers. Wouldn’t it be better and more cost-effective to identify and reprimand the 1% instead of inconveniencing the 99% who are non-problematic?

Instead what the ministry should do is to have a better and more stringent method of screening every application for maids. The maids should be screened for their attitude and capability to work as domestic helpers. Do they have the experience or training to carry out basic household chores? Are they aware of the working conditions in their new places of work? Are they aware of the employment contract, remuneration package and job expectations?

It is very disturbing a large number of maids especially from Indonesia are totally untrained and unaware of the actual nature of jobs they are being employed for. Many of them are tricked into coming into the country being promised factory jobs, only to find out to their dismay that they have to work as domestic maids which they detest. How can we expect such a maid to do her job well if she hates what she is doing?

The employers too should be scrutinized to ensure those with bad records, especially criminal, are not approved. A visit to the residence of the applicant will give a clear picture of the working condition of the maids. Even after the maid is employed the officials from the ministry should conduct spot checks on the maids at their places of work to ensure that the employer-maid relationship is satisfactory.

The maid agencies play an important intermediary role in domestic maid service in the country. Despite the large numbers of such agencies, it is unfortunate that most of them are unprofessionally run, just to reap maximum benefits from the services provided by the maids. There is no proper selection of the maids in their country of origin. Name, age, health status and even religion of maids are often falsified to meet the conditions imposed. Very often maids with no basic knowledge of household work end up in the homes of employers causing nightmares for the latter.

These days is has become common to have part time maids who work from one house to another from morning until late at night. How can a maid be expected to be equally efficient in the afternoon when she has worked without rest in a different house in the morning? Besides being unfair to the maid it would also be unfair to the second employer for the day as she would not be able to give her best although he pays the same rate.

The attitude of employers towards their maids is of utmost importance. They must understand the fears and anxieties of foreign maids when they first arrive in a strange land, with strange people and strange cultures. The maids have left their loved ones to come all the way here just to earn a little extra to support their family. A little care, concern and kindness will go a long way to avoid many maid-related problems, which are basically due to failure to understand each other’s predicament.

It is disturbing that the caring attitude that was once a feature of Malaysians seems to be eluding the younger generations due to the demands of the competitive and materialistic society they live in. Today Malaysians seem to be obsessed with winning at all costs, with little or concern for the disadvantaged loser. There is a need to re-look at our education system to see where we have gone wrong in educating our children to instill these humane values in them.

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