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Coming up with the best 'pricing' for foreign maids in M'sia
Publication Date : 22-12-2013
After years of trying to resolve the issue of bringing Indonesian maids to work in Malaysian homes, a solution has been proposed to allow the employment agencies, represented by their respective associations on both sides, to sort out the problem once and for all.
There are those who believe that a strict business-to-business arrangement, where market forces prevail, is the best option.
And so they welcome the agreement reached by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for government to back out and to let business take its course.
But the contrarian viewpoint is that leaving it all to business, especially when monopolistic in nature, will only lead to higher costs and possible skirting of international conventions relating to the employment of foreign labour.
We need to separate the wheat from the chaff.
According to the Malaysian Maid Employers Association (MAMA), which is not in favour of leaving it to the agencies, there are at least 200,000 Malaysian employers waiting for maids.
There is demand, for sure, and the laws of business dictate that when demand outstrips supply, it is the supplier that has the upper hand. Which is why MAMA is worried.
But PAPA, the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies, is not. Even though it concedes that the cost to bring in maids from Indonesia will likely go up, letting the agencies negotiate without a preset level will eventually result in a price that is agreeable to both parties.
How long such negotiations will take, minus bureaucratic involvement, will depend on how eager both the Malaysian and Indonesian parties are in getting the issues out of the way so that the cash register in this lucrative business will start ringing again.
But the bigger issue goes beyond money. There are many social problems that come with the package, even if a well-negotiated one, because we are not dealing with goods, but with human beings.
Not everything can be ironed out at the negotiating table, be it with government officials or private businessmen.
And the problems extend to both the employer and the employee.
We can have the best salaries and terms of employment to guarantee the maids’ interests but there is no guarantee as to how the domestic help will be treated in the Malaysian homes. Or for that matter, how the maids will “exploit” their employers. In the privacy of the home, it is sometimes difficult to get at the truth.
Since the impasse, Malaysians have had to look to other countries to meet their needs, but there is no denying that Indonesian maids still rank high in terms of preference.
With this new proposal, we hope that the Indonesians will want to come back.
And as we welcome them back, we must also do our part to ensure that we treat them decently as fellow human beings.
That is what the “best pricing” is all about.