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Asia Minute: Indonesia Fights for its Maids Working Overseas

Tina Franklin / Flickr
Tina Franklin / Flickr

The treatment of overseas workers in Asia is a continuing issue for many governments. Human rights groups say many are mistreated. That’s especially true for domestic workers--those employed as maids. And now the government of Indonesia is taking action. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Indonesia wants to ban its citizens from working as live-in maids in foreign countries.

The government says that system leads to abuse, and it wants maids to live in their own housing, have set working hours, and get time off—at least one day a week plus public holidays.

A senior official at Indonesia’s Ministry of Manpower says its citizens employed as domestic workers are systemically mistreated.

The ban on live-in maids would only affect new workers—those already working in households could extend their visas if they are satisfied with their conditions.

This potentially impacts tens of thousands of maids and workers around Asia.

According to government figures, 50,000 Indonesians serve as domestic workers in Malaysia. Roughly 125,000 in Singapore, and more than 150,000 in Hong Kong.

The vast majority are women.

This spring, a human rights group in Hong Kong called Justice Centre produced a scathing report on the city’s treatment of foreign domestic workers—which make up a stunning 10% of the city’s workforce.

The report says one in three Hong Kong households with children have a maid.

Justice Center says of nearly 350,000 foreign domestic workers, more than 55,000 may be in forced labor---coming largely from Indonesia and the Philippines…along with several other Asian countries.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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