MALAYSIA - Ms Belinda Kuan gave up a promising career after a long and "frustrating" hunt for a maid ended in failure.
"We got an Indonesian maid in February after applying non-stop for nearly two years," said the 29-year-old mother of two pre-school children.
"Then she quit after two months for no reason."
It is a dilemma facing more and more middle-income Malaysian families whose parents both work.
They are finding it harder to hire foreign maids because fees are rising and Indonesian recruitment firms are shunning Malaysia to find jobs for their better trained workers in more lucrative markets like Singapore and Hong Kong.
Others like Ms Joy Yap, the manager of an IT firm, is upset with having to pay "search" fees of up to RM2,000 (S$775) to agencies to find a maid.
"In short, lots of Malaysians are being cheated due to desperation," she said.
Facing increasingly expensive maids from Indonesia and the Philippines, a Cambodian ban on letting its maids work in Malaysia, and language barriers with Sri Lankan and Vietnamese maids, agencies said the industry has shrunk by nearly 50 per cent since 2009.