Indonesian authorities say the country will cease sending new live-in maids abroad — domestic workers will ideally live in dormitories separate from employers, work regular hours, and enjoy public holidays and days off.
This move could be put to action from as early as next year, but will be done in stages after meetings with the authorities in receiving countries, like Singapore and Hong Kong.
This will only affect new workers — for households already employing domestic helpers, visas can be extended. Slightly less than half of Hong Kong’s 330,000 domestic workers are from Indonesia.
In a report by The Straits Times, the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower’s director for the protection and placement of Indonesian migrant workers abroad, Soes Hindharno, announced that employers will reap the benefits of getting “better quality” workers, who will be certified in their country and empowered with skills like cooking, childcare and eldercare.
“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. We want better protection for our workers. If they are always indoors, we don’t know if they have worked overtime. They should be compensated for that,” he said.
For Indonesia, the main concern is that live-in maids working abroad should receive good working conditions and not be socially isolated in case they need help.
Laurence Fauchon, the founder of HelperChoice, a Hong Kong social enterprise that connects domestic workers and employers online, said that the announcement from the Indonesian authorities is “worrisome for thousands of dual-income middle class families and the elderly in Hong Kong who rely on Cantonese-speaking Indonesian domestic workers.”
“At the same time, we have heard the request to live out from domestic workers and concern groups for years and with the recent coverage of abuse cases, it is not surprising that the Indonesian government wants to protect their nationals,” Fauchon continued.
This initiative is part of a plan by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to professionalise informal employment.
Words: Coconuts Singapore with additional reporting by Coconuts Hong Kong