KUALA LUMPUR - Hiring a Filipino domestic helper has been painful on the pocket with the 100% increase in wages being enforced here - now it's "payback" time for the Philippines.
Filipino maids are being paid US$400 ($574), up from US$200, following the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration's decision in October 2006 to standardise the minimum salary of Filipino household workers deployed overseas.
The move drew flak from Malaysian employment agencies who described the increase as too high and unrealistic.
Even Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Victariano M. Lecaros agreed that the minimum wage set was relatively high for Malaysian employers.
He wanted his country's domestic workers to do more to justify their high salary.
'US$400 may be cheap in Europe and North America, but that is not the case here in Malaysia. A one size-fits-all solution may not have been the best (in standardising the minimum wage worldwide),' Lecaros said in an interview.
To put right the situation, he urged Filipino domestic helpers here to do more than just simple chores like cooking and cleaning.
'For US$400, they should be able to do much more. Many of our girls are college-educated and can handle tasks like tutoring schoolchildren.
'They should also be good enough to handle specialised tasks like caring for the aged,' he said, calling on Filipino domestic workers to live up to their billing as "super maids".
The envoy said Philippine maid agencies should also ensure that the domestic workers were well trained to handle varied tasks before despatching them here.
Employment agencies here have to sign and stamp contracts with the Philippine Embassy for every Filipino domestic worker brought in.
The contracts also state that the Filipino maid is entitled to a rest day every Sunday.
An employer, who declined to be named, said she only paid a RM400 salary for the Filipino maid she hired about 20 years ago, adding that the present rate was "not right".
'I wouldn't say that in terms of ability, they are that much better than Indonesian maids. The only advantage is that they speak English,' she said.
She said although she could afford to hire a Filipino maid at the present rate, she preferred to stick with her Indonesian domestic helper "who did the same chores for a much lower salary".
Indonesian maids here are paid RM400, one-third the salary of their Filipino counterparts.
There are about 30,000 Filipinos living and working the peninsula, with an estimated 20,000 of them working as domestic helpers. -- The Star