Wrong families being squeezed Published on Aug 22, 2012

THE impact of the new pay demands for Indonesian maids will raise the cost of hiring a maid for many families ("Pay more for Indonesian maids from November"; Aug 13 and "Weekly day off for maids a must from next year"; March 6)

Families must pay at least $785 monthly to meet the minimum wage demand of the Indonesian government ($520 plus $265 maid levy). This is a substantial increase over the past years, especially for families who already have the additional burden of paying for young children's or elderly family members' other needs.

Families employing full-time caregivers to help look after their loved ones with disabilities are granted a lower monthly levy of $170 instead of $265. The Ministry of Manpower has been labelling the $170 a concession, when it is, in fact, an unnecessary additional cost for these families.

The ministry's rationale is that the levy serves to moderate demand for foreign maids and ensures that only employers who need and have the financial means to hire them are able to do so.

But if the ministry supports the Government call for encouraging couples to have more children and care for their elderly parents, the levy, regardless of the discount, will not serve the purpose.

If the demand for maids must be moderated, the ministry may have been focusing on the wrong group, because families looking after young children and elderly family members need maids more than any other group, regardless of financial capabilities.

Lau Wee Cheng

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