THE entry restriction imposed along with the movement control order since March 18 has not only dealt a blow to the manufacturing, construction and plantation industries that rely heavily on foreign labour but also caused a severe shortage of domestic helpers.

According to a report in China Press yesterday, no less than 10,000 families are anxiously waiting for the arrival of new domestic helpers.

Equally anxious are foreign maid agencies which have made advance payments amounting to RM100 million prior to March to bring in these helpers but have yet to see any of them.

Malaysian Association of Employment Agencies president Fiona Low disclosed that prior to the MCO, between 3,000 and 5,000 foreign domestic helpers were brought into the country each month to meet the demand.

So it can be deduced that a nine-month hiatus would have resulted in a huge shortfall in these helpers.

“Of course (under normal circumstances) while new maids are brought in, those who have finished their contracts are sent home. There are also employers who stop hiring maids for economic reasons.

“Even if the figure (shortfall in maids) is halved, it means more than 10,000 families are in urgent need of domestic helpers,” said Low.

On Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s recent announcement that working couples with foreign maids stranded overseas can apply for their return to Malaysia, Low told the daily that only maids who went back to their home countries while they were on leave and whose temporary work visit passes are still valid can return to Malaysia.

“Nine months on, how many of these (stranded) maids’ temporary work visit passes are still valid? We can be sure that more than 80% of these passes have already expired.”

She pointed out that maids are a must for many families, including those who depend on these helpers to look after children, especially special children, the elderly and infirm.

She said that while other sectors facing a shortage of foreign labour can opt for automation or hire locals, there is no replacement for foreign maids and Malaysians do not fancy working as domestic helpers.

Low also disclosed that there are more than 1,000 foreign labour agencies in the country but at least a third of them are considering calling it a day due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Based on an average of 10 employees hired by each agency, some 3,000 people are at risk of losing their jobs.

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