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Most Malaysians couldn't care less for domestic help
19-Dec-2010, The Star Online
By Isabelle Lai
KUALA LUMPUR: A large number of Malaysians view their domestic help as servants or maids rather than workers.
A recent survey found that a majority of them disagreed with giving workers a day off each week or pay allowances if they were to work more than 14 hours a day.
These findings were among the results revealed in a research report launched by non-governmental organisations Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility Asia (CARAM-Asia) and Tenaganita.
The Merdeka Centre carried out the survey on their behalf through phone interviews with 283 randomly selected employers in the country.
It discovered that only 6% were adequately informed about their foreign domestic workers' legal rights under the Employment Act.
CARAM-Asia regional coordinator Mohammad Harun Al Rashid said that the survey provided disturbing insights.
"Some disagreed that punitive measures be taken against exploitative employers," he said at a press conference held in conjunction with International Migrant Day yesterday.
"They appeared ready to condone behaviour that denies the foreign workers their basic rights."
In contrast, Hong Kong employers' attitudes toward foreign help was far better. At least 47% showed awareness of the laws.
"Hong Kong employment laws provide a standardised contract that covers the workers' basic rights," said Harun, adding that Hong Kong had been chosen for comparison due to its stringent laws on foreign workers.
"Malaysia, on the other hand, has no such contract, and this has led to much abuse of the foreign workers' rights," he said.
He added that one should be created under the Employment Act and stipulate the foreigner's scope of work, place of employment, duration term, rest days, annual leave and others.
"Another step is to change the term 'servant' to 'domestic worker'. This will accord workers the same rights given to all other categories of workers," he said
Harun also suggested that the Labour Department carry out random checks to ensure employers adhered to regulations.
"Lastly, the Passport Act needs to be strictly enforced," he said. "It is a crime to hold another person's passport."