inherent unequal gender hierarchies in both countries meant that domestic

Inherent unequal gender hierarchies in both countries

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inherent unequal gender hierarchies in both countries meant that domestic workers had no avenue for redress, and were susceptible to abuse by employers. Following a series of well-publicised abuse cases, Malaysia and Indonesia signed an MOU in May 2006 that speci fi ed a standard contract for Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia. Although the pay scale was revised upwards, the withholding of salary continued, employers retained the domestic workers passports, the issue of a minimum wage was not resolved, and employers were unwilling to grant a weekly day off to domestic workers (Kaur, 2007 ). In 2009, there were fresh cases of abuse and deaths at the hands of employers, and the Indonesian government imposed a moratorium on the recruitment of domestic workers for work in Malaysia. After lengthy negotiations on working conditions, and under the scrutiny of international and Indonesian NGOs, the Indonesian government lifted the ban in late 2011. A new MOU on domestic worker employment was signed between the two countries, and domestic workers were informally included under Malaysia s Employment Act 1955. The new MOU contains clauses such as the stipula- tion of a day off; allowing domestic workers to retain their passports; a revised pay scale; and the condition that employers have to bank the domestic workers salaries in their bank accounts. Signi fi cantly, since domestic workers cannot join or form trade unions, they are allowed to fi le complaints of mistreatment with the Labour Of fi ce and seek assistance from enforcement agencies and NGOs. Thus, they may seek redress under Malaysia s Anti-Traf fi cking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007, if forced to carry out tasks not stipulated in their contracts. This new arrangement continues to enhance the role of labour brokers and absolves the Malaysian government from incurring additional costs in the regulation of domestic workers. Generally, the government s policy of maintaining the country s export competitive- ness based on cheap foreign labour has resulted in Malaysia being caught in a middle- income trap. Malaysia continues to rely on foreign investors to create jobs for Malays and migrants ( Migration News , January 2012 ), and is competing with lower-wage countries, especially in the manufacturing sector, but Malaysia s share of Southeast Asian FDI ows has been dropping. The country, which received 35 per cent of South- east Asia s FDI ows in 1980, attracted only 13 per cent in 2008 ( Migration News , January 2010 ). In order to encourage further private sector initiatives and increased investment, the government endorsed a new model of labour brokerage or labour out- sourcing arrangements for fi rms employing fewer than 50 workers from 2005. This Managing Labour Migration in Malaysia 360 Downloaded by [University of New England] at 22:20 29 July 2014
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labour model has coincided with the push by multinationals such as Nike to utilise boutique contract factories in Malaysia for the manufacture of clothes and sports shoes that carry their brand names. Specialised agro-horticultural farms utilising the
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