PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - Malaysian employers need not look further than home for their foreign maids. The refugee community in the country can provide a cheaper alternative source, supplying possibly over 20,000 maids.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said they plan to work with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) soon to come out with a win-win solution for both employers and the refugees.
"The refugees need to work to support themselves here and we need manpower for domestic helpers," Engku Ahmad pointed out.
"For employers, the main advantage will be cost. The refugees are already in the country, so we can save on transportation and levy costs."
There are currently about 104,070 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with the UNHCR in the country, 30 per cent of whom are women. More than 90,000 are from Myanmar while the others are from Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Engku Ahmad said tapping the refugee labour force was one option Mama came up with after Indonesia announced it would stop supplying maids to foreign countries in 2017. An estimated 35,000 Malaysian households are currently on the waiting list for foreign maids.
"We hope to meet the UNHCR soon to discuss the proposal and if acceptable, work out the mechanics, including the law, processing and medical screening before proposing it to the relevant ministries," he said.
In an immediate response, representatives from various refugee communities in Malaysia welcomed Mama's proposal, saying it would help refugees who needed to support their families with a stable income.