Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population; approximately 87 percent of the people in the nation are Muslim, accounting for about 13 percent of the total Muslims in the world.
“Mudik,” or homecoming season, happens annually during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims who’ve taken jobs in the big cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Medan, and so forth, return to their hometowns and villages across the archipelago. This is considered a tradition in Indonesia and it comes from the desire to reunite with family and loved ones at home by the time Idul Fitri arrives.
Every year, the Idul Fitr festivities intersect with the needs of housekeepers; they would usually leave their employers for a few days to see their families in their hometown. How many of us get disoriented by taking care of the house by ourselves because they take a few days off?
Not this year. Jakarta’s Governor Anies Baswedan has extended large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) until May 22, the day before the date of Idul Fitr 2020. President Joko Widodo is adamant the country must flatten the curve of positive coronavirus cases by the end of May, leading to a ban of the traditional homecoming tradition that has been issued by the Minister of Transportation.
This is absolutely a different mudik ambience. With all of the changes during this year’s homecoming season, mixed with the existence of the virus itself causing distress to both employers and housemaids, several adjustments are having to be made.
Sofie is a housewife living in South Tangerang. She has a housekeeper who comes over daily and then returns to her home, not far from Sofie’s place. But during the pandemic, Sofie’s housekeeper has been working from home, in the sense that she cooks and irons in the comfort of her home and then sends over the cooked food and clean clothes to Sofie with the help of her husband.
“I looked for someone who can cook, is honest, and hygienic,” Sofie said. She admitted that she never used an agency for domestic staff before because luckily, her current housemaid is someone who has been working with her family for a long time.
Jessica Giovanni is the co-founder of the Go Maid Agency, a company that brings job seekers such as housemaids, babysitters, drivers, and elderly care workers to employers who need these kinds of assistance. Go Maid is significantly different from conventional set-ups in general – it’s a third-party service which acts neutrally in connecting workers to customers.
“In previous years, the trend during the mudik season was an increase in demand from the customer side, whether it’s infal – temporary – or permanent workers. But on the other hand, many workers are returning home, thus there is a decline in the workforce,” explained Jessica. This includes Sofie’s housekeeper, who according to her, “is not going to mudik – she completely understands this pandemic.”
Jessica clarified that the demand for infal in 2020 is not as high as it usually is, rather it’s declined because the majority of customers prefer to have live-in workers until the pandemic is clear. Pembantu infal, or infal housemaid services, is interpreted as someone who temporarily takes over the housework while the regular housemaid is unavailable during homecoming season. But with Sofie, she isn’t using infal anymore, “I used to use infal when my children were still babies, but they’re in elementary school now and I don’t think it’s necessary to use the infal service.”
Jessica further explained about the agreement between customers and workers from the beginning of the agreement, including the worker’s need to mudik. Customers have the luxury to look for someone happy to not mudik, and surprisingly, some workers are.
“But as time goes by, maybe the temporary housekeeper does want to go home and then violates the agreement. Go Maid will provide a replacement worker and give a sanction to the worker in the form of retaining their deposit,” she explains. Blacklisting the worker’s information on Go Maid’s website will also happen, thus hindering future job seeking with the agency. “There’s also a case where the customer doesn’t want us to find a replacement. We will return the money instead,” Jessica continued.
With this pandemic, extra attentiveness to health and safety measures have to be taken into account. Jessica said that fears are emerging from both the workers and customers.
“We check the travel history of the worker. We will go through an interview stage first to filter candidates. From here, we will also check their health. Once a customer and worker matches, we give two options to the customer: do you want to quarantine the worker, which we can arrange for 14 days, or do you want them to take a free rapid test or a test in the hospital?” she said. Customers generally choose a rapid test to get certainty, but workers aren’t obliged to take rapid tests.
Each customer must fill out the request form according to their wishes to find the best suitable worker on Go Maid. This request form gets processed and searched within three to five days to find a matching candidate. When a suitable worker is found, an interview is arranged between the worker and the customer, which will be done via video call or face-to-face. “We want the replacement rate to be low,” Jessica said.
A work contract with an admin fee per deal will then be made once both parties feel comfortable following the interview. Contracts start from Rp2 million for a housemaid, Rp2.5 million for a nanny or babysitter, and Rp3 million for a driver. Within this contract is a three-months guarantee with a maximum of three replacements.
“Expatriates make up 70 percent of Go Maid customers.
There’s no difference procedurally. Sure, job seekers must possess English skills. The admin fee is the same but most workers are going to demand a higher salary,” Jessica said.
Go Maid’s regional focus is around Jabodetabek, yet it doesn’t rule out the possibility to operate across other regions in Indonesia. Workers originate from various areas such as Java, Bali, and so on, and are matched with customers depending on their respective regions. For example, customers in Yogyakarta will be prioritised to work with staff who are already in Yogyakarta.
At the moment, PSBB is hampering the mobility of workers, resulting in limited working areas. Previously, someone living in Karawang, Tangerang could get jobs in Jakarta, but they simply can’t nowadays.