Indonesia has resumed sending maids to work in Malaysia three years after a ban was enforced because of numerous abuse cases, but fewer than a third of them had arrived, according to a report.
Indonesia, the main provider of domestic workers for Malaysia, announced last December it would lift the ban after the two countries agreed to better protect maids, including allowing them one day off per week.
The ban was imposed by Jakarta in June 2009 after numerous abuse cases and has been a sore point in relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbours.
A Malaysian labour recruitment official said while the number that arrived four days ago was small, it was "better than nothing."
"We managed to bring only 29 maids as many had backed out because of the bureaucracy in the Indonesian recruitment system," Jeffrey Foo, president of the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies was quoted as saying by the New Sunday Times newspaper.
But Suryana Sastradiredja, a social and cultural affairs official at the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, said he had no idea why the turnout had been so low but indicated that it could be due to fear of abuse.
"Perhaps the salary is too low, or after hearing of abuse cases, they backed out. I do not know the real reason behind this," he said.
It was reported earlier that up to 5,000 maids would arrive monthly after the ban was lifted.
Indonesian maids receive about 600 ringgit ($188) a month but often work from sunrise to sundown daily. They attend to the elderly, children and cook meals.
Before the ban was enforced some 300,000 Indonesian women worked in Malaysian households. The ban led to a shortage of maids that affected the daily routine of many working Malaysian parents.
Cambodia also imposed a ban on sending domestic workers to Malaysia last October following numerous abuse complaints.