INDONESIA will stop sending new live-in maids abroad from as early as next year.
The authorities there want domestic workers to live separately from their employers in dormitories, work regular hours and get public holidays and days off.
The Indonesian Ministry of Manpower's director for the protection and placement of Indonesian migrant workers abroad, Soes Hindharno, said that in turn, employers will get "better quality" workers.
They will be certified in Indonesia and trained there to excel in skills, such as cooking, childcare and elderly care.
"They are also free to do other chores but don't penalise them if they don't do too well in areas outside their skill set," he said.
"We want better protection for our workers. If they are always indoors, we don't know if they have worked overtime. They should also be compensated for that."
The move will be made in phases, and will first require meetings with the authorities in receiving countries, including Singapore.
He said the initiative will affect only new workers. Maids already working in households abroad who are happy with their employers can extend their visas. The move is part of President Joko Widodo's plan to professionalise the informal employment sector.
A roadmap to stop sending Indonesian maids abroad by 2017 was announced by the authorities in 2012, amid worries about domestic workers being mistreated.
Indonesia is the biggest source country for maids in Singapore, with around 125,000 working here.
Their situation has not improved fast enough to allay Indonesian authorities' fears, according to Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) president K. Jayaprema.
The association has been working closely with Indonesian authorities since December on a solution to address these concerns. She added: "We also want to ensure quality domestic workers can continue to come to Singapore."
Agents said they would support formalised training but logistical issues, such as lodging and travel expenses and the lack of sufficient dormitory accommodation, would need to be settled for a live-out arrangement to be implemented.
Read also: Huge impact if Indonesia bans maids
Nation Employment managing director Gary Chin said some employers might be concerned about unpredictable delays during their maids' commutes.
One employer, a banker who gave her name as Madam Molly, 53, said she would prefer to have a helper at night, as she sometimes works late.
A spokesman for the Manpower Ministry said the live-in requirement is not peculiar to Singapore - Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia also have a similar practice.
"Singapore does not condone mistreatment of foreign domestic workers and has taken errant parties to task," added the spokesman.
Indonesian domestic worker Aisyah, 27, who has lived in Singapore for six years, was happy to hear about the possibility of a live-out arrangement. "Living outside will give us more free time and more friends but some people might prefer to stay at home if employers treat them like family."
Read also: Higher pay for Indonesian maids
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