Recruitment agencies in Malaysia have petitioned the Malaysian government to reduce the minimum age for domestic workers from 21 to 18, local media reported yesterday.
Forty-five companies sent a petition asking Malaysia’s Home and Human Resource ministries to consider lowering the age requirement for the maids, according to the Malaysia Star news website.
Malaysian recruitment agencies are currently experiencing a shortfall in workers after the Indonesian government recently banned workers from traveling to Malaysia due to concerns about possible mistreatment, the paper reported.
Reducing the age limit would allow companies to recruit 10,000 to 15,000 additional maids from Cambodia, it said.
About 40,000 Cambodian migrant workers per year are placed in overseas jobs by migrant labor firms, remitting around $150 million, according to figures released by the Labor Ministry in September.
Approximately 10,000 workers have gone to Malaysia since 2000, according to Ho Vuthy, deputy director-general of the Ministry’s general department of labor. He said that the country would only be able to send more workers to Malaysia if they were properly managed once they got there.
“If the management is good, the work will be good so we can send more laborers to Malaysia,” he said.
An Bunhak, chairman of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said the move, if adopted, would benefit the industry, but would not necessarily increase the total number of migrant workers.
“Female migrants will have more choices…. Migrant workers going to Malaysia will increase while the job market in Thailand will decrease,” he said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labor project at the Community Legal Education Center, said he did not think women of 18 would be any more vulnerable to abuse than women of 21.
“It reflects Cambodian law. At 18 people have the authority to sign employment contracts,” he said.
However, he urged both governments to ensure that those working in Malaysia receive adequate protection, regardless of their age.
“Both countries need to talk seriously to guarantee protection mechanisms are in place,” he said.
In September, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs announced that Cambodia hoped to sign a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia on the protection of migrant workers by the end of the year.