Monday, March 19, 2012

House Maids - how much should they be paid?

The problem of getting housemaids in Malaysia seems to have become a national issue. Since the maids mostly come from different countries- Malaysian girls and women do not seem to be interested at all in the job anymore - it has also become a regional problem involving countries from where the maids are recruited. Currently, the country most affected is Indonesia.

What has become a big issue is not only the question of how much household maids should be paid but also the emergence of cases where they have been mistreated and abused by their employers. On the other hand there are also cases of negligence or misconduct by the maids
leading to the death and injuries of children and babies under their care . Of course there are a few cases of attractive maids getting too much attention from their employers, causing wives to go on the warpath. But that is a different story and nothing in the world can stop it from happening as long as maids include young and beatiful damsels.

The first most important issue is the pay. How much are they ususally paid and how much should they be paid in accordance with the current market value of their services? Recent discussions between the Malaysian government and Indonesia had set the minimum payment at RM 700 -800 per month. But now Indonesia has insisted that the said amount should only be for one job. If the maids were also asked to undertake other jobs, they should be entitled to a payment for that job as well, the amount to be determined later. This has upset even the Prime Minister of Malaysia who had discussed the matter with the President of Indonesia to fix the current minimum payment.

Probably the issue of minimum payment for the maids has not been thoroughly examined. First off, we should recognize that household or. domestic assistance job can fall iunder many categories. There are those which involve more of cooking and taking charge of the kitchen. Others involve baby sitting and taking care of the children akin to wet nursing. It can also involve taking care of older people, doing
the washing, ironing clothes, making up the beds, doing some gardening work etc. The list of household works that need assistance if the wife is to have enough time for a career and taking care of a husband, is just inexhaustable.

Every nousehold certainly calls for a different mix of these job responsibilities and a different volume of work as a whole depending on the size amd the flair, capacity and interest of the wife or the mother in the household to undertake hosehold work herself. If the lady loves household work and has ample time for it, she will do all the major work leaving the maid to give assistance as required. On the other extreme she will ask the maid to do most of everything while she suprrvises and gives some assistance. Immediately we see that it's not fair to pay the maids under such different lady bosses the same amount per month.

The indonesian authorities had already classified the main duties which they cosider to belong to one job. That includes cooking, washing and ironing clothes plus taking a general care of the house. That is the core job. That seems fair enough but it leaves one very important function out and that is attending to babies and children. It is over this matter that a lot of trouble had emerged. Several acts of negligence and abuse had been uncovered some with fatal results.

It must be admitted tha looking after babies and children is a specialised job. One must be specially trained to become a wet nurse especially in the case of young maids who are not married and had no children of their own. Allowing them to look after the children could be courting a lot of trouble with dire consequences. In fact looking after the children is a mother's responsibility and a maid can only assist.
Looking after teenagers requires an even more refined training as a mistress or governess in the old English tradition. Nowadays you need a Councillor to do that. Even parents sometimes failed to undertake that responsibility effectively resulting in youths with psychological and docial problems.

Perhaps a special allowance for taking care of the kids and especially babies should be considered provided that the maid had received a certified training program for the job.. A maid doing this job will mostly have her hands full and performance in the core job will be affected. Hence any extra payment involved should be ofsetted by a deduction from the basic pay of RM700. The same goes for doing other jos like washing cars, painting the fence, gardening etc. Employers should come forward with a fair formula when an all-round maid is required and the terms must be agreed to by a maid before bing appointed. Perhaps this will resolve any fear that the maid will be underpaid or abused
There cannot be a single payment agreed to for all families because families differ in msmy ways.


Al-Manar said...

Let the Indons stay where they are earning whatever minimum wages fixed by their government, be it 1,000,000 rupiah or greater. I see Malay boys and girls being made to work in Chinamen's shops in my part of the world and being paid not more than 500 RM, and no one has made any noise. This is a case of 'kera di hutan diberi susu' etc.

norzah said...

Thanks for raising that issue, Akhi Pakcik Al-Manar. Yes I also see our boys and girls working in gas station, warung kopi, at esting stalls etc. I wonder how much they sre paid and so far none had complained about low pay. I wonder how much they get and yet they seem happy. They surely can grt more if they bovome house maids. But they are just not interested. They prefer to work in factories. How come?

ymrk said...

after this, the government gonna have more issues on PATI ... perhaps many families may not be able to pay as much as RM700 but willing to employ PATI with affordable monthly salary as what they pay now ... RM 400-450 .. so its a win-win situation for both parties; (I pay you and your presence will be silent..; You treat me well and I will stay....)

norzah said...

Thank you very much for the response, Ymrk. As far as I know KHDN has mot made any ruling on PATI yet nor appoint any agency to facilitate the pocess of legalizing their stay and appointment as workers. A salary of RM400-450 would certainly be affordable by most Malayians who require the service of a maid but that's well below the minimum wage as set by gevernment.
Most importantly family size differs, thus imposing different volume of work for the maids. The volume and strenuousness of the work also depends on the madam of the house. A kind and reasonable one would not treat a maid like a slave. One who does should be made to pay for her indiscretion or inhumanity.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
A maid situation should not be equated to a minimum wage structure. RM1200 being bandied about may be relevant to other jobs. A big chunk would go towards food and shelter. A maid situation are rid of these. She gets free food and shelter. In real terms, RM700 would be equivalent to an additional RM400 or so (considering food prices and rental these days)

It'll all boil down to supply and demand. It is not just maids but also include citizens ie those within the RM1200 figure. If RM1200 is implimented, massive unemployment would result. Those unemployed would later accept lower paid 'temporary' jobs. There'll be lots of job hopping worsening further an uncertain job market.


norzah said...

I totally agree with you, Akhi Hank, that maids' pay should not be equated with the minimum pay that government is considering for local citizens. Maids stay in the homes of their employers and pay no rent or cost of living, which, as you mentioned, take a large portion of one's income. They don't even pay for the cost of transport and entertainment, unless they want to have their own party on weekends and off days.
But employers often demand too much of them and not treat them as a part of the family in terms of enjoying some of the domestic facilities. It is for that reason perhaps that local girls would rather work in the factories for lower pay and more monotonous jobs than become a maid.

abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
The issue of pay for the Indonesian maid is relatively a difficult issue to solve not as much as whether they are dependable and reliable. From my experience, the good ones are extremely rare and one is lucky if you can have someone who is consistently dependable. I had the experience of engaging a few who ran away when they helped my sister to care for my late father. That is the more critical issue really. We cannot afford to pay more than what they are really worth.

norzah said...

Thanks for the response Akhi Halim. There seem to be a lull now in the press on on the issue but that does not mean that the problem has been solved or that the problem of getting domestic help had been resolved. I've read some of the views expressed in the facebook on the problem and it seemed that there are a proliferation of bitter experience with maids who had betrayed their employers, stole some cash and jewelry , or mistreated the children or babies. So, while tne question of paying a higher salary is being discussed between the givernments, i wonder whether the question of taking legal action on maids who shortchanged or purloined their employers are also being tackled.

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