KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Maid employment agencies in the country are finding themselves in a bind over a surge in demand and a shortage of workers.

Despite Putrajaya’s assurance last month of a deal with Indonesia to address the shortage, Association of Employment Agencies Malaysia vice-president Suresh Tan said that there was still no clear directive from the government on the procedure for the new intake of domestic workers, The Star reported today.

“We are still in the dark, we don’t know anything until now,” he told the newspaper.

Tan added that the worker shortage and lack of clarity over the recruitment process also affected other industries, such as security, manufacturing, warehouse, cleaning, construction and restaurants.

“Will it be a manual or online application? Medical checkups, Covid-19 quarantine regulations and tests, all of these need to be addressed.

“The government too has to be transparent on the cost so that employers would be aware of it if they want to hire a new foreign worker or a maid,” he was quoted as saying.

According to Tan, these woes have jacked up the cost of hiring a maid through agencies.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost to recruit a maid ranged between RM10,000 and RM15,000 a month.

Now, Tan said it costs between RM15,000 and RM20,000 a month, depending on whether the worker will have to undergo additional Covid-19 quarantine and testing.

He urged the government to lower the quarantine cost to help reduce the burden on the employer as they need to pay an additional sum of RM6,000 to RM7,000 due to these extra requirements.

Tan also said the salaries for Indonesian maids range from RM1,200 to RM1,500 a month while for Filipino maid, it started from RM1,670 a month.

He also said employers could hire maids on their own without going through the agencies via the “System Maid Online”, but pointed out that there is a risk.

“Some embassies are concerned about hiring because of welfare issues. If they go through an agency, they will take the responsibility if something goes wrong,” he was quoted saying.

He added those hiring on their own could save RM1,000 to RM2,000 from the total cost paid to the agency.

“Hiring on [your] own still goes through a third party in the country of origin. You either go through a runner or unlicensed agency there to get the biodata of the employee you want,” he told The Star.

The Star also reported Malaysian Maid Employers Association president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein saying that the demand for domestic workers has increased now that people are starting to return to their offices for work.

Last month, Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said that Malaysia can expect a significant number of workers from Indonesia from this month.

He said the government will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the Recruitment and Placement of Indonesian Domestic Workers in January, which is expected to bring in 5,000 to 10,000 workers.

The Star quoted an unnamed source from the Indonesian Embassy saying that the MoU had yet to be signed as negotiations were still ongoing.

“They are looking to see more protection for the domestic workers to ensure their well-being.

“There are many other intricate issues to discuss as well,” the source was quoted as saying.