Activists and labor exporters dismissed on Tuesday a plan by a Singaporean company to establish a training center for maids in Indonesia, saying it would largely serve the interests of employers rather than Indonesian overseas workers.
Such a center would only commercialize its training programs and would therefore impose more financial burden on Indonesian maids wanting to work overseas, said Wijaksana, an activist of Jurnal Perempuan -- a non-governmental organization that advocates the rights of women domestic workers.
"The training center would merely focus on improving skills but avoid talking about the risks of working abroad," he told The Jakarta Post.
Nor would the planned center provide adequate information on workers' protection and safety, he added.
A Singaporean company, Homemaker, had announced its plan to set up schools in Indonesia and the Philippines to prepare "custom-trained maids" before they took jobs in the city state.
"We want maids with the right attitude and aptitude," Alvin Kor, director of the firm, told The Straits Times as reported by DPA.
The company said it would open a center in Jakarta next month and in the Philippines in January 2006.
The maids will spend two months at the center learning about housekeeping and looking after infants and the elderly. They will also learn safety tips and how to handle chemicals.
According to the company, Indonesia and the Philippines are the primary sources of the 160,000 domestic helpers in Singapore. Others come from Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.
The plan came amid reports of local training centers that are ineffective in improving the skills of its maids. This has partly been blamed for the problems they encounter overseas.
Saleh Al Waini, who chairs the advisory board of the Association of Indonesian Labor Recruitment Companies, accused the Singaporean company of trying to take over the job of training from domestic firms.
"We have a large number of such centers here. Why do they (Homemaker) need to teach skills that we already train people in?" he told the Post.
Saleh suggested that Singaporean labor recruitment companies focus more on efforts to ensure clear salary mechanisms and scrap recruitment fees imposed on Indonesian domestic workers.
"They should abolish discriminative treatment in terms of salaries, as Indonesian workers are paid less than their Philippine counterparts. They have also to start forcing Singaporean employers to pay the recruitment fees as practiced in Malaysia," he said.
Wijaksana said he was worried that the training center would charge prospective maids to pay for its overhead costs.
"This kind of center should be free of charge. It should not charge any operational costs to migrant domestic workers because they already spend millions of rupiah to arrange their work documents," he said.
Indonesian domestic migrant workers pay millions of rupiah for passports, work permits, training fees and various illegal fees to be able to work abroad.
Despite the high costs imposed on them, many often return home without any earnings. Some have even lost their lives or ended up in prison.
2 Nov 2005
Tb. Arie Rukmantara, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta