KUALA LUMPUR - Many employers say they have no choice but to pay the high price set by maid agencies because they cannot cope without the extra pair of hands at home.
A 65-year-old businessman who wanted to be identified only as Simon, said while the official price for an Indonesian maid was about RM7,800 (S$2,911), he had to pay an additional RM5,200 cash to the agency.
"There was no receipt for this extra sum, but I did not have a choice because I have two elderly parents at home who need special attention.
"I cannot take care of them by myself, so I paid the extra charge," he said.
Wong, a 46-year-old teacher who declined to give her full name, said it did not make sense to pay so much when most of the maids had to be taught from scratch by their employers.
"It's too much. I paid nearly RM18,000 all in all for my maid and she can barely communicate with me and doesn't even know how to do simple tasks such as washing dishes," she said.
She said she had gone through five other maids prior to the current one and noticed that each would stay for about three to four years before leaving to work in other countries, such as Taiwan and Singapore.
"It is like Malaysia is their training ground. We teach them how to communicate and how to perform the daily tasks and once they have the necessary skills, they leave for greener pastures," she said.
A maid agency owner, who wanted to remain anonymous, said Malaysia was one of the lowest paying countries in the region for Indonesian maids.
"In Singapore, they get about RM1,300 a month and about RM1,500 in Taiwan. In Malaysia, we pay them RM700 to RM800.
"Obviously they would rather work in the other countries," he said.
Also, he said, the demand for them in Malaysia was so high that the Indonesian agents took advantage and charged a premium.
He also explained that previously, the process for acquiring a maid was conducted between a local agency and an agent in Indonesia who would hire a sub-agent to source for the maid.
"When there was that huge shortage in maids, starting from 2009, many Malaysian agencies resorted to dealing directly with the sub-agents and overpaid them.
"Now, these sub-agents have come to expect that kind of money even when they deal through Indonesian agents," he said.
The sub-agents also claimed they had to pay more to a prospective maid's family to convince them to send their daughter to work in Malaysia, according to the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies.