Confusion, fear over Indonesia maid ban

Top News | Mary Ann Benitez 19 May 2016

Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong are confused and fear for their jobs after it was reported that President Joko Widodo ordered a stop to maids going abroad starting at the end of the month.

A complete ban will then take effect from next year.

However, Singapore's Straits Times said the country will only stop sending live-in helpers.

Soes Hindharno, director of placement and protection of overseas workers under the Ministry of Manpower, told the newspaper they will send "better quality workers certified in Indonesia and trained to excel in specific skills."

He added: "We want better protection for our workers."

Soes said the target is for all Indonesian workers abroad to be "true professionals" who work in companies from 2018.

The cut-off of the maid supply will first be made in the Middle East, followed by Asia-Pacific, including Hong Kong.

Eni Lestari, coordinator for the Network for Indonesian Migrant Workers, told The Standard government officials recently laid out the new requirements for helpers going abroad.

They should be at least 23 years old, have attended secondary school, have training certificates of skills, and have gone through recruitment agencies.

"The truth is they are not banning helpers going abroad," she said.

The recruitment agencies will be the helper's employers, who will put them up in boarding houses to work as cleaners in hotels and homes, Lestari said.

"The government is indirectly putting migrant workers in a more vulnerable situation especially those already abroad," she said.

She said many Indonesians in Hong Kong "fear they will lose their jobs" as about 30 percent of them had only primary education.

She said helpers here have been paying for courses to gain training certificates and attending Sunday classes at the Indonesian consulate to upgrade their school qualifications, but these are not cheap.

Angela Yip Wai-kuen, spokeswoman of the Labour and Welfare Bureau, said the SAR government is unlikely to relax its live-in policy.

There are about 300,000 foreign helpers in Hong Kong, half of whom are from Indonesia.

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