June 19, 2009 / 8:46 AM / 10 years ago

Malaysians bridle at day off for Indonesian maids

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Proposals to give the hundreds of thousands of Indonesian maids working in Malaysia a compulsory day off a week have drawn ire from both employers and business groups who believe households will break down.

While Filipino maids are generally given a day off each week, the 370,000 Indonesian maids who work in this Southeast Asian country of 27 million people are generally not given time off.

The government had proposed the day off after a series of high profile cases involving mistreatment of Indonesian maids by employers, most recently a case in which a maid was assaulted with hot water, a hammer and scissors.

Indonesia is considering a moratorium on sending workers to Malaysia following the cases of violence, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Friday.

An SMS poll for Malaysia’s Star newspaper published on Friday showed that 76 percent of 585 respondents believed that giving maids the day off was a bad idea.

“I feel that by giving a weekly day off to the maid will expose them to unwanted activities such as dating boyfriends and bringing guys back when the bosses are at work,” Noora Mat Rifin wrote in a letter to the Star Friday.

“They might neglect the children and other responsibilities because they will have too many friends and too many phone calls. This will result in more stress to the bosses when more conflicts are created.”

The starting salary for a live-in Indonesian maid would typically be 550 ringgit ($155) a month in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

“We will listen to the views of all parties and I believe this matter will also be discussed in the cabinet,” deputy minister Maznah Mazlan said, according to the Star, after hearing objections from business groups.

Indonesia’s minister of manpower, Erman Suparno, was quoted by state news agency Antara Thursday as saying he planned to meet his Malaysian counterpart in mid July to review the current terms for Indonesian workers, including pay increases.

“If we can’t reach an agreement to improve the protection of Indonesian workers then we will consider a temporary halt on sending them,” he told Antara, adding that several ministries would discuss the implications of a moratorium next week.

Overseas Indonesian workers in countries such as Malaysia and in the Middle East are a big source of foreign exchange remittances.

($1 = 3.531 Malaysian Ringgit)

(Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuw in Jakarta)

Reporting by David Chance; Editing by David Fox

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