PETALING JAYA - Desperate Malaysian employers are forking out almost double of what they should be paying - between RM14,000 and RM15,000 (S$5,225 to S$5,598) in agency fees and others - for an Indonesian domestic worker.
And the situation will get worse now that the visa fee for Indonesian workers coming to Malaysia has gone up by about 15-fold since last month, claimed the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa).
Maid agencies here said their counterparts in Indonesia had been hiking their fees because both governments failed to enforce a 2013 agreement that set the price at RM7,800 per maid.
Papa president Jeffrey Foo said there was still a dire shortage in the supply of Indonesian maids here because of this situation.
"Many of our agencies do not want to bring in Indonesian maids because the price set by their counterparts in Indonesia is too high.
"They are asking for about RM9,000 to RM10,000 to source, train and send a maid to Malaysia.
"How are we supposed to supply domestic workers at a reasonable price when the cost to bring them in is already so high?" he asked.
Papa vice-president Foo Yong Hooi claimed the cost of getting an Indonesian maid would rise further because the visa fee for Indonesian workers had increased about 15-fold.
"The fee has gone up from 57,000 rupiah to 850,000 rupiah (from S$16.14 to S$91.60) per worker," he said.
According to the agreement between the governments, the Indonesian agencies were supposed to charge about RM5,000 for each maid.
"But these agencies are now supplying them on a willing buyer, willing seller basis," Foo said.
"If you are willing to pay the high price, they supply the maids.
"Their maids are also in high demand in other countries where employers pay higher monthly salaries. Most prefer not to come to Malaysia."
Indonesian maids in Malaysia are paid RM700 to RM800 per month while in Singapore, they get S$500.
Asked why employers in Singapore were only paying about S$2,000 to agencies for Indonesian maids while in Malaysia the price was going sky high, Foo replied that agency fees in Malaysia were not controlled by the Government.
"Singaporeans also pay higher monthly salaries so Indonesian agencies may not be charging them as much in initial fees," he said.
In 2011, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Malaysian and Indonesian governments, which set the agency fees at RM4,511, but the agencies argued that it was unreasonable and this led to a shortage of maids here.
In September 2013, both governments agreed to set the fee at RM7,800 with RM6,000 to be paid by the employer and the balance deducted from the maid's salary over six months.
Of the RM7,800 fees stipulated in the agreement, about RM3,000 would go to the Malaysian agency while the remaining RM4,800 would be paid to the Indonesian agent.
Yong Hooi said some agencies under Papa which signed an agreement with the Government not to charge more than RM7,800 had stopped providing Indonesian maids since the cost of getting the maids had spiked.
Others were forced to pass on the higher cost to the employers, he said.
"The fees are exorbitant. But the agencies need to make a profit and if a maid runs away within three months of being employed, the agency has to provide a replacement," he said.
Indonesian maids were preferred in Malaysia because of the similarity in cultures between the two peoples. Also, Filipina maids were more expensive to hire and the employers must be in a certain income bracket.
Maids from Cambodia and Vietnam used to be available to Malaysians but this stopped several years ago.