18 Aug 2015

Domestic Helper - Hong Kong/Malaysia, etc

Winter:  Below is a post that I've extracted from Hong Kong forum.  It just showed how stubborn activists are.  They refuse to compare apple to apple - Living standard and cost of living is different, yet they kept bitting on Asia domestic helpers' employer.  How can this world be fair and less conflict when some people are biased toward FDWs' employer?

Activist:  I am writing a book and have interviewed many helpers that come from all walks of life.  
Why are maids not allowed to leave their house at night after they have finished work?  
When you take the min wage in Hong Kong at $50 an hour they do not even come close to this hourly rate at 4000 hkd a month as most work from 8 am some earlier too 9pm at night?

I also understand they earn more money than working in the Philippines or Malaysia 
but is not reason to treat them as second class people as they are still human beings 
and trying to earn money for their families.

HK employer Greene: It seems that you have a rather one-sided view of life as a DH here. There are many reasons DH are in Hong Kong, not all purely financially driven. For instance they may be seeking a way to escape marriage in their own country, they may be seeking a foreign husband (and the opportunities this brings) or they may be seeking to have a same sex relationship, something which would be often be impossible back home. Some apparently come here to apply for a foreign country’s visa in a time that is much less than back home. Sticking purely with the financial aspect you raise though - it is possible to work as a DH in HK and after 4 years have enough money to buy a home in their own country something which can’t be bad can it? 

Also you presume that the DH has no time off during the day, what about the situations where the employers go to work, the kid goes to work and the DH has the daytime alone? True in some cases there are cameras checking on them but this I believe is not the normal case, most employers expect the DH to manage their time, complete their tasks and take breaks or relax accordingly. They also use apps to chat with friends or relatives just like non DH do and listen to radio stations in their own language, it’s not like they have no communication. 

One thing to remember is that in HK the family is the legal employer; you may say it is selfish however the employer might worry what the DH is getting up to and that it is the employer who could later ‘suffer’ should the DH stay out late at night ie the DH finds a boyfriend and wants to leave a few months after starting work or gets pregnant and the employer has to pay medical bills and give the DH time off work.

You also seem to forget that many DH actually enjoy their work. My DH enjoys coming out for dim sum or dinner or going to the beach or a BBQ even though she is still in theory working at the time. She loves being involved with the kid’s birthdays. Many times she has asked to come along on family outings on her days off as she does things she might not be able to do by herself whilst also saving money (she does not need to pay for transport or food). And at night she often likes to watch a movie with my family and me.

There are horror stories as to how DH are treated or abused but thankfully these are rare cases. Some do not work out in their job and suffer financially or otherwise but for the vast majority it is a chance to take a job that requires no formal qualifications and which allows them to achieve or do something that they cannot do back home. 

You have interviewed many many DH however to keep from being biased did you interview a similar number of employers or consular staff? I am talking from my experience and that of DH I have known not just my helper; I do know DH who have saved enough in 4-5 years to buy a home in their own country - the first year they spend 6 months or so paying agency fees etc then after that have very little cash outflow given that they don't pay for food or housing or utilities. Those first 6 months is the real make-or-break period. Go to a village or small town in Philippines or Indonesia and locals can easily point out those homes owned by DH working in HK.

I cannot agree either that the main reason DH come to HK is that they cannot find work in their own country - many can BUT it does not pay as well! How much do you think an unskilled job in Philippines or Indonesia pays?

Incidentally why did you start out with the interviews? Did you start independently or were you sponsored/backed in some manner by an NGO or other party?

HK Employer Lagrue: I am not surprised that no employer/consular official will speak to you, your post is aggressive in tone.

Maybe you want to rethink your approach and reflect on why you are getting the responses you are, sociology research should be undertaken with specific methodology. Going into an interview armed with loaded/rhetorical questions usually gives you a loaded/rhetorical answer!

Activist: I do have a meeting with a consular official to get their side of the story
i do not think my tone is aggressive at all i am stating what i have been told and also i did have a lot of questions to ask them.
i am not some stupid reporter or writer that does not prepare before i do an assignment

there is no where in a western world that you would be able to hire any one for that kind of salary you know that and i know that and hk is not exactly a poor nation

so we can go back and fourth until when ever and it will not change anything
i respect your view and comments so please respect mine also

HK Employer Lagrue: I can not deny that I have domestic helpers, I can also confirm that I pay them well above the minimum. All my helpers are free to go out in the evening......so I guess you have some sampling problems in your methodology....it would be a shame to put in all your hard work and have it not be generalisable to the Hong Kong population. That is what I meant about using proper methodology to conduct your research. being sponsored by an NGO or going to some shelter for abused helpers is not going to give you an accurate picture of the domestic helper situation in Hong Kong.

The wage is not as low as you would like to sensationally paint it. 4100 plus accommodation (if the helper has her own bedroom this would cost her possibly 2,000 per month in the boarding homes with very basic facilities - most employer's homes would be better than this so ?cost more ?3000 per month ) plus food (another 1000) plus medical expenses (?100 per month) = 7200 per month. No-one is saying that the domestic helper wage doesn't require redress, but it is not as low as you'd like to jump up and down and rage about. It looks much less outrageous for your write up to say 7,200 per month as opposed to 4100 per month, especially to the readers in the UK, US ect.

Listen if you asked a banker if they would take a job paying 15,000 per month as a local driver, they would say no way! As, given their skill set, education and market demand they could command in excess of 100,000hkd per month. Asking Greene whether he would work for 4,100 as a domestic helper is as a ridiculous argument as asking a banker to work for a local driver's salary. I totally don't get your logic and I fear for the balance of whatever you are attempting to write.

I am not here to tell you how to suck eggs, but if you are bonafide in trying to write a piece that really represents the situation of the Domestic Helper program in Hong Kong, you should enter the investigative process with an open mind. You should read what you have written and think whether it represents a rant or a fair balanced view. Perhaps exploring churches may help you find domestic helper who may be better taken care of, I don't know but methodologically you seem to have some major issues.

Moreover, as an investigative journalist you shouldn't have to be picked up on basic facts, freely available on the internet about the minimum wage in Hong Kong, irrespective of what ever a government official 'told you'.

Also your investigation suggests that domestic helpers prefer other countries but can't get there because of visa reasons. Therefore Hong Kong is not their top destination, they are here because they can't get to their aspirational country. Sure, everyone has aspirations but what they choose on a day to day basis reflects the BEST choice available to them. Hong Kong is the best choice available to the domestic helpers (even better than their own country). End of story.

At the end of the day, I have a feeling you'll write whatever you had in mind to write and will find evidence to back up your preconceived ideas, and it would probably make your NGO happy. I do hope you don't go down that path for your sake, and that you write a cogent, well reasoned, well researched piece.

Activist:  It looks much less outrageous for your write up to say 7,200 per month as opposed to 4100 per month, especially to the readers in the UK, US ect.

HK employer Greene: Cheap labor compared to say Europe or US? Yes. Compared to most of Asia, no. If HK life for DH is so bad then why are there 300,000 or so here? The ones I know made a cool and calculating decision to come here – the pay and lifestyle is better than they can obtain in virtually anywhere else in Asia or the Mid East doing a job that is unskilled and requires no formal education. I respect them for their decision and feel it is condescending to treat them as desperate or forced to come here. Do you deny that a DH in HK can earn in say 5 years enough to buy a home back in their own country? I notice you have not responded to this question.

It seems you also think because HK is 'rich' then DH should be paid more. To save you some research time note the following:
-approx 300,000 HK residents (excl FDH), around 10% of the workforce, earn the minimum wage. Do the math and that works out around $5,100 pm for a 50 hour week. Of course most don’t get accommodation or food or travel paid to them so they are likely worse off than a FDH in terms of disposable income after these expenses are taken in to account.
-the average (whatever that is) wage in HK is around $14,000 pm. Again not a lot when you need to pay accommodation, food, heating/aircon, food, electricity etc. 

Why do I keep going on? You yourself have admitted nothing mentioned by others in this forum will change your opinion on the issue hence why I believe your post was one-sided and biased, written to mold public opinion to suit the agenda of you and your backer, rather than have a true discussion or debate on the matters.

Activist:  We can go back and fourth until doomsday and we will not agree .
I think they should be paid what they are worth for 72 week which is what most of them work
hence they should be paid for 72 hours a week of work

HK employer 3: You always mentioned that you are could not agree with some of the posts here, i don't think that it is necessary to agree on anything as you are only gathering data. you are being too aggressive in pushing your findings but sadly though i don't think this thread would get you to what you are lobbying for.

I strongly suggest to get a hold of some of their (DH) contracts and base your questions from there, such as salary, holiday, etc etc and air out your concerns most specifically the salary to the who would be in the better or should i say legal position to do so.

Most of the working conditions are solely based on that contract and some may be added or removed which is up to the agreement between the employer and the employee.

the cases of maids that are being abused are only a small ratio of their whole population here in HK.  Also have you ever known stories that the maids are abusing their employers?  such as: inviting friends in their house when their employers are out of the country, Maids that are lazy, etc etc.

Have you also tried to interview those DH that are able to go out at night? there are numerous DHs that live out in boarding houses and are free to do whatever they want.  Seems like your findings are solely based on the FDHs being abused, not being able to live out, and their salary.

Lastly, may we know what your book is all about so all the readers may know as well how broad is your scope about DHs in HK and why is it just being narrowed down to the aforementioned items.

HK employer 4:  Myself, living with one DH over 26 years, and other DHs with younger tenure. I also tried Indonesian, Filipinos, Indians. Being in the field of law, I trust facts rather than opinions.

After opening this thread, I was amused by the hot debate over a claimed writer. I always advocate here, be respectful to each sides (employer and employee) and the world would be better. Less hatred and more appreciation and everyday you will find pleasure living with each other. That is also the foundation in maintaining the good relationship with the employers/employees, actually to every person around you.

Can the writer clarify.
- being not a stupid writer, may I know the organization or work title of the writer? What is the title of the book? I have connection with most of the consulates the writer deemed useful for the fact finding, I sincerely want to help.

- Talking about minimum wage, I was in the drafting process. The subject is for those who earned the citizenship on this land and have the innate responsibility to support their own cost of living, to pay rent, tax, transport, moral and financial support to their senior/junior generations on the same land. We cannot compare orange vs chicken, plants vs animals, they are in two domains.

- in your writing, please clarify that food allowance would be paid only if the employers would not provide / share food with the DH. Most of the DH shared the food in monetary term far more than such allowance. Not to mention the cooking utensil and fuel costs arisen from cooking them.

- There are other countries that might have higher surface value of salary but the restriction on DH , freedom of travel, how difficult the employer could lodge an application for importing a DH, standard of living in that country (e.g. over 100HKD for a standard McDonald fast food set). All persons are free to go here and there. What is the conclusive choice? How is the market demand and supply?

- Living out has many legislative concern and is banded. If you encounter anyone doing that here, please. Be a responsible journalist, report this to Police or Immigration for by law they are breaching the condition of stay here with custodial sentence and very adverse impact on their future employment here or even migration record to other developed places.

- Which official gave you the wrong figures on minimum wage? As I was in the circle I can help you to clarify or even if you need our service, we can sue one who deliberately present the wrong message with ill attempts.

- How to count the working hours? If there is a robotic life you find. Report this to authorities and help such helpers. If not, how to calculate the cost of living areas, utilities, rent when the DH is not working (in theory it should be counted).

When writing a book, think about the objective, shame on those would widen the misunderstanding of different races and appreciate if the good writer can direct the readers to have a better understanding or better courses of actions after reading from the book.

If not, I would rather throw the book for recycling or recommend not to spend time to write with wasted effort, as in reality, from legal perspective, "reasonable men" will judge on their mind rather than how you repackage the hidden agenda.

Tried of reading so much grievance, save time for a better tomorrow, for own self and for other better beings.

HK employer 5:  This is rather one sided.

$4110 minimum salary.
Accommodation $2000
Food expenses for 3 meals a day say $80
personal hygiene, shampoo, loo paper etc..#200 a month
Laundry say $100 a month
Free medical insurance say $50
No transport costs

and yes, you might grumble she has a tiny room, but 50 percent of people live in public housing.

The reason the maids do not have so much is due to agency loans.
But as someone says, how often do you go work abroad for 10 years and buy a massive house afterwards with a plot of land

My Indonesia helper told me Hong Kong got the highest wages compared with other Asia country. In Taiwan, DH only allows 1 day off for the whole year.

Maid in Hong Kong jailed, claimed she was teaching the kids, July 2015
An Indonesian domestic worker has been given a five-month jail term after she was found guilty of abusing her employers’ children.  Adriana Marsalina, 38, was found guilty of seven counts of child abuse at Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts.

A security camera caught Marsalina hitting her employers’ two children, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, at their home from February 11 to 17.  The court heard that the children had been slapped in the face by Marsalina. The girl was struck 12 times in three days and the boy 14 times.

Helper denied all 7 charges and claimed that she was teaching the kids, as they behaved not well in eating. Defence claimed that the wound is minor and not likely to be repeat offender again as she willnot be allowed to work in HK again.

The court rejected all claims since the victims could not defend themselves and custodial sentence had to serve to reflect the seriousness of the crime as she was only the trusted adult at home to look after the children who warrant appropriate care. Such violence not only disappointed the expectation of employer but also shaded the childhood of innocent kids.

Majority of helpers are good but this case marked the necessity to monitor your helpers especially those newly arrived at your home. Sometimes, taking this as example, they would find ways to finish the job rather then how to get the job done better. Simply because the kids were eating slowly made helpers feel they had to work longer and the innocent kids became the subjects to blame.  This is not about the ethnic as a child minder, but the ethnic about humanity.

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HK maid change employer
Employer: She has only been to HK for three months as a maid for the first time. Unfortunately she was fired two days ago by her boss - she told me that her boss (wife) had a very bad temper and she kept throwing things at her for very small mistakes she made. She worked at my place for half day as trial and she seems nice. I've asked her employer's contact number for reference. Has anyone experienced similar thing before? Her previous boss probably won't say anything nice of her. What shall I do?

Response 1: This is also one of the most popular excuse to let the next employer stop thinking of asking for reference. I believe some of the employers are good and some are bad, of course. If the previous one has bad temper, from the tone and choices of words you can also feel the same. Then you can put aside those bad comments against your potential next helpers. But in many cases, you may learn more about WHY THE PREVIOUS ONE DOESN'T LIKE. Be fair, if the points the ex-employer made is pointless, as I have experienced, I will still go ahead to hire the helper. However, in many other occasions, I also received their comments like....."be good at first and keep talking on phone and do nothing bit by bit", "smoking", "bring others to home".....It is another window for you to judge which side is telling the truth rather than listening to one sided story.

So, if you have the chance, having direct talk is more efficient than reading the standardized praising reference. (if the employer wrote, they should praise as the helper is still working for them....and why wasting the effort to write bad comments as they could opt for not writing any word.) Such talk can also test the authenticity of good writing reference, as in common sense, someone committed to write good reference should have no or at least less negative comments when you talk directly.

And, believe your own feeling and judgment, rather than just listening. Use your eyes and heart to feel. After all, he/she is your helper.

Response 2:  No helper is going to admit that they were fired for their own mistakes.
Beware of the helper who says that the boss has a bad temper.
Employers spend a lot of money on paying agency fees. There has to be a good reason why she was fired.  Also, anyone trying for a job would be on their best behaviour.  Ask the helper to give the boss' telephone number. If she refuses, then you know something is up.  If she says, the boss doesn't want to be contacted, why would it matter, she has already left.

Response 3:  Helpers are poor and in some ways desperate with only 2 weeks after a termination to find a new job. They will say anything to secure a new job, particularly as the deadline for the expiry of their visa approaches. I would be very wary of helpers who give a complete sob story and who refuse for it to be verified.

Sure, a helper will not leave their job if they are happy with it, BUT not all helpers are fit to be a domestic helper, especially as the demands can be extremely varied. Perhaps they don't like their employer not allowing them to chat on the phone all day (happened to me with my first helper in Hong Kong).......I'm talking about being on the phone up to 6 hours a day! Perhaps they have no chemistry with children, are unable to maintain basic hygiene, can not be taught how to cook, have committed crimes, have a bad habit of telling white lies when they make mistakes (cultural problem of people from SE Asia, E Asia to save face and avoid confrontation) ect.

No one is saying don't hire someone with a terminated contract, just talk to the ex employer, and work out whether the problems they had with the helper would be problems for you. Relying on the helper to be 100% fair in recounting why she was terminated in foolhardy to say the least (anyone notice the HUGE conflict of interest). Relying on gut instinct can also be risky when entrusting the care of your home to someone else. At the very least ensure by contacting the ex employer that the helper has not engaged in anything illegal e.g stealing money, forging checks ect.

Response 4: ha ha... some helpers just tell lies and insult the intelligence of the listeners. Actually telling truth would be better as a human being and as the caretaker for the home and children , morally and in common sense.

Sometimes, telling truth would gain more than telling the useless lies.  So, be honest, and be considerate is the key for maintaining good relationship with people, no matter you are employer or employee.

Response 5: The employer being angry..abusive..shouting...crazy are common complains from a Helper who has been terminated or quit their employ. You will hear it from many helpers. Over the years, I have learnt not to fall for that immediately. 
Agree, speak to the employer, you can judge from that if the employer is insane, an angry person or just plain honest. 

My helper is just completing her contract with me and I have refused to sign another 2 years with her. It has been hard putting up with her but I did anyway as I have been too busy with work and my kids are grown.  I have been hearing that my helper speak ill about me now, saying similar stuff that I have been shouting/ angry at her and therefore she will not do a contract with me!!! 

Sadly, it leaves a bitter taste. At the end of 2 years it now has come to this.

Employer: Hi many thanks to all of you who have replied. We took your advise and insisted in talking to her previous employer as a condition of hiring her. We are glad we did... it was a completely different story and the lady has also shown us some photos as proof.. 

Many thanks again and it is true that SPEAK TO THE EMPLOYER is very important.... we were desperate to hire someone and that we felt sorry for her that she was treated badly.

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Indonesian Maids Dust Off The Middle East,AFP  5 May 2015

Indonesia will stop sending new domestic workers to 21 Middle Eastern countries, reports said after the recent execution of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia angered Jakarta.

The ban affects countries including Saudi Arabia — a major destination for Indonesian maids – United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt, and will come into effect in three months’ time, Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri was cited as saying in local media.

Jakarta, which has long complained about the treatment of Indonesian maids in the Middle East, had already placed a moratorium on sending new helpers to Saudi Arabia in 2011 following the beheading of an Indonesian worker. The new move is meant to be permanent. Indonesian maids already working in the affected countries will be allowed to stay and continue in their positions.
Indonesia’s anger at the executions of its citizens abroad comes despite the fact that Jakarta last week executed seven foreign drug convicts, drawing a storm of international protest.

“According to the law, the government has the right to stop the placement of migrant workers in particular countries if it is believed that their employment degrades human values and the dignity of the nation,” Mr Dhakiri was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Antara.
He said there were “many problems” with Indonesians working abroad related to “labour norms and human rights violations”.

Manpower Minister Dhakiri cited the execution of Indonesian domestic workers Siti Zainab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim, who were both put to death for murder just days apart in April.

The foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador to Indonesia after both executions, complaining Jakarta had not been informed beforehand.  Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom’s strict version of Islamic or shariah law.  Mr Dhakiri also said Indonesia will tighten placement of helpers to countries in the Asia-Pacific through measures such as auditing training centres and blacklisting rogue agencies.

President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, vowed in February that Indonesian maids would no longer be sent abroad in future, although he did not mention a date. Previous Indonesian governments have made similar pledges.  As well as the Middle East, Indonesia also sends domestic workers to many parts of Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and has often complained about the treatment of its workers in those countries.

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Philippines wants Filipino maids to be paid the minimum salary of US$400 (S$535/RM1,440).

Employers of Filipino maids are reminded to pay the minimum salary of US$400 (S$535) as stated in the contract signed.  In a statement, the Philippines embassy said employers would now have to pay Filipino maids RM1,440 (S$535) because of the weaker Malaysian ringgit.

"This has been a known agreement for the last 10 years for Filipino maids that their salary is based on US dollars," said Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Jeffrey Foo.  He said many maids had come forward to complain that their employers had not been paying their salary according to the contract, which resulted in the embassy releasing the statement as a reminder to employers.

Foo said business had definitely dropped as employers found it more expensive to hire Filipino maids.  A maid agency director known as Pushpa said it was difficult for her to explain the price fluctuation to customers.  "Customers find it a hefty price to pay for a maid," said Pushpa.  She hoped the Government would intervene and stipulate that Filipino maids be paid in Malaysian ringgit instead of US dollars.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Maid Employers Association president (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said other governments aside from the Philippines had called for salary increments for maids.  "President Jokowi of Indonesia has even urged for the word maid to be changed because it is degrading," said Engku Ahmad Fauzi.

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Aug 2014
Bad maids are everywhere, not just Spore but we cannot stop them.  Activists/MOM and some forums disallow posting of domestic maid's particulars via public pages/forums.  

Reminder: there are too many fortunate people, have not encountered any bad maids so be a silent reader, don’t sprinkle salt on our ‘wound’ as an ACTIVIST!

Ministry of Manpower hasn't been kind to employers. We were strongly advised to treat maids like human beings, show respect to them, don't restrain them, give them freedom, give weekly off days, etc but when bad things happen, employers have to bear the risks and losses. Why so unfair? We were not given the rights to post truly and warn other prospective employers!

Maids are not shameful or guilty about what they did.  According to activist: nothing wrong to find love working as FDW and being at fault eg abusing or hurting us, Maid is just trying to vent her anger, under stress or provoked so Employers cannot jeopardize her re-employment.  You paid MOM, paid your FDW timely and cleared all agency fee but when things didn't go well, who's there to side and fight for you? 

Look at the pro-maid, pro-source country and pro-agency policies that I've highlighted. Existing policies will not make FDWs learn to be good and responsible helpers. Existing policies will not make maid agencies take on some responsibilities and do better FDW sourcing.  Maids continued to be recycled easily and even allowed to receive higher salary (intentionally erase her fault) in other countries.  There are bad employers but why nobody believe there are bad maids too?

A Hong Kong employer asked me whether it is possible meet up the FDW's employer support group in Spore, I said no such group or organisation. We are stranded, MOM has no heart to care for us. Activists can't wait to throw stones at us. When employer tried to post details such as FDW's name, work permit, activists get really worked up and claim that is not right. One blogger by the name of Tamarind seemed to have given in and removed her informative blog. 

"I m an employer from Hong Kong . All the things has mentioned on the above is happening in H.K. for over 10 years. Now today, maids from philippine r very worse as in Singapore. Especially, MFMW or Bethune House r teaching or using them to bully employers by helping them to create criminal cases against. the employer. In order they can extend tourist visa so can shop or fool around in H.K. for free. B4 they leave H.K. usually will have over HKD 60000 loan . from fd, employers or steal money from our family. Many problem maid already working in Singapore. In H.K. employers r collecting / sharing the bad maid info. data also. H.K. government has no help at all!!!! One of the bad maid , she just start working in Singapore n her name is Liezi. She own over HKD 30000 from financial companies. She physically abuse new born baby , after employer found out, she used to.cry n excuse on her own family problem such as family member die on each month!!!"

Hiring Filipino maids in UAE just got tougher, Gulfnews, 23 Jun 2014
Hiring Filipino housemaids has become tougher in the UAE since the introduction of the unified contract for domestic workers in June that ‘clashes’ with policies of that labour-sending country.

Both the UAE and Philippine governments are committed to implementing their contracts designed for hiring maids. Recruiters and families who need to hire house help, however, are caught in the middle since both countries have differing policies.  (Winter:  same happened in Spore.  Philippines behaves like we owe them a living and made a lot of demands, created two contradicting contracts.  Philippines is unable to guarantee its citizen US$400 or half of it yet expect Spore and other countries to agree.  Before allowing its citizen to work abroad, Philippines must earn kopi money, using the excuse of POEA requirement.  How caring and thoughtful!)

The Ministry of Interior introduced the new standard contract for housemaids on June 1 to protect the interests of both housemaids and their employers. Following this, the Ministry of Labour issued a circular stopping embassies of labour-sending countries from verifying or ratifying contracts of domestic workers. It also said employers who wish to sponsor housemaids should not be compelled by embassies to be screened or “to sign any contract pledges by those embassies”.

The move has led to a shortage of maids from the Philippines, which imposes strict measures in maid deployment. The pool of domestic help in the UAE is getting smaller since the Ethiopian government still has a ban in place on its nationals from working in the UAE as maids. The Indonesian government is also currently making changes in its deployment policies, which has affected maid supply.  "Business is dead,” Rodel Gabriel, a consultant at Al Sharq Al Aqsa Labour Supply, told Gulf News. “Some 75 per cent of our deployments are Filipino maids. Because of the confusion over the conflicting policies, no new deployment can be made.”

The Philippine missions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are directly affected because Philippine laws mandate them to verify contracts for housemaids before deployment to ensure that their rights are protected. Without the necessary verification, they cannot deploy housemaids. Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, however, denied any deployment ban.  "We did not issue any deployment ban. Based on Philippine regulations, if no contracts are verified by the Philippine labour offices, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will not process contracts for household service workers bound for the UAE,” Baldoz told Gulf News in a phone interview from Manila.  Baldoz said that their current decision only mirrored the Philippine government’s stance when Saudi Arabia earlier unilaterally suspended contract verification for maids. But despite the lack of a deployment ban, the Philippine Manpower Agencies for the United Arab Emirates based in Manila said they will stop sending Filipino maids to the UAE by July due to the ministry’s new rule, local media reported yesterday.

Verification is part of the Philippine reform programme package that upholds the protection of Filipino maids, including ensuring they get a minimum US$400 (Dh1,469) monthly wage, a minimum age deployment of 23, a weekly off, and no placement fees, among others.

Many countries like Philippines, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have set minimum wage benchmarks for housemaids from their countries working abroad. The minimum salary for maids from Philippines is Dh1,400, India 1,100, Sri Lanka Dh825 and Indonesia Dh800.

An Indian family who recently hired a maid from India said they are in deep trouble because of the new salary specification rules. “We brought her to the UAE on April 22 to take care of our newborn. We were told the visa charges will be Dh5,000. But last week when we applied for her residency visa authorities told us it will cost Dh14,000,” said the young woman who did not want to be named. She said they cannot pay so much and neither can they send the maid home.

Many families said if the increased charges are imposed, it will put them in a tight spot.  “I have had a housemaid for the last five years. If the cost of renewing her visa is going up by two or three times, I have no other option but to send her back to India. That actually means I have to quit my job,” said Sangeetha Mathur, an Indian working woman in Abu Dhabi.

Nihal Rakesh, a businessman, said the new rule will potentially ruin many working women’s careers. “Many women can afford to work because they have maids to take care of their children. Sponsoring a maid is already a complicated and expensive process in the UAE,” said Rakesh.

Japan Offers High-Paying Jobs for OFWs (filipino maid), Philippines News, 16 Apr 2014

Japan, a country four hours away by plane from the Philippines may have the opportunity you are looking for. According to Jeng dela Cruz of Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Japan, the “Land of the Rising Sun” has many available jobs for OFWs.

In an interview with DZMM on Wednesday, dela Cruz pointed out that there are many household workers as well as skilled workers such as engineers in Japan. She emphasized that skilled workers are often directly hired, while others are hired through recruitment agencies duly accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Aside from skilled workers, Japan is also in need of household service workers, drivers, and English teachers.  Salary Range:
Household service workers earn between  P52,000 to P65,000 / S$1490 to $1865) (Winter:  sure or not, teacher earning lesser than maids.  Maids will be lured and find out that they won't be earning so much.... cheated)
Filipino drivers, who are highly favored by Japanese, receive an average of P87,000 / S$2496  (Winter:  sure or not, earn more than a Diploma fresh graduate)
Entry level teachers may receive approximately P65,000 / S$1865.   (Winter: filipino teacher so poor thing?)

Due to Japan’s strict requirements and application process, Japanese visa is considered one of the most difficult to obtain for Filipino tourists. But last year, the country has issued multiple-entry visas to Pinoy tourists.

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Malaysia maid - RM14,000 fee, 25 Dec 2013
Unscrupulous recruitment agencies out to make a quick profit are exploiting Malaysians desperate for domestic help by charging them fees as high as RM14,000 for an Indonesian maid.

This is nearly twice the rate of RM7,800 agency fee fixed by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments.  Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said those desperate for a maid were willing to pay the higher fee demanded by some agencies although it flouted the agreement between the governments.

These agencies are pirates. I believe many of them are either unlicensed or not members of the country’s two main recruitment agency associations.  “Agencies who are members of the Malaysian Asso­ciation of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) and the Malaysian National Association of Employment Agencies (Pikap) are monitored for compliance by the Human Resource Ministry and those who flout the ceiling rate are liable to be blacklisted by the ministry if found guilty,” said Engku Ahmad.

In September, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to lower the fee for Indonesian maids from RM8,000 to RM7,800/ S$3039. Last Thursday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed to allow Papa and its Indonesian counterpart, Asosiasi Perusahaan Jasa Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (Apjati), to work out a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the supply of Indonesian maids to Malaysia, which has dried up.

Indonesian maids are more in demand among Malaysians because the upfront fee for their employment is lower due to the government-to-government agreement to fix agency fees while Filipina maids cost much more to hire as their fees are governed purely by market forces.

Engku Ahmad said that some agencies were also getting away with charging excessive fees as some employers were unaware of the official rate of RM7,800.  “Many have no choice but to pay what the agencies ask for because the lack of a maid for dual income households can seriously affect their productivity at work and their lives in general,” he said, adding that there were now 200,000 Malaysians on the waiting list for maids.

In Ipoh, a maid recruitment agent said that a MoU signed on a business-to-business basis would give agencies a free hand in setting the fees.  “If we can make adjustments to the sum, surely we will do so. Perhaps up to RM10,000 to match the sum we are charging clients to hire a Filipina maid,” she said.  Another agent said, the RM7,800 fee imposed on clients to hire an Indonesian maid was inclusive of three months’ salary.  “It is barely enough to cover our costs and payment to our counterparts in Indonesia,” he added.  

In Kuala Lumpur, an employer said he paid RM14,900/S$5805 to employ an Indonesian maid. This included an agency fee of RM11,000 after a discount of RM300, and RM4,200 in advance salary.  “I had no choice but to pay the amount as I needed a maid urgently,” he said.  

In Penang, working mother-of-three Choi Ji Nee, 40, said she forked out RM12,000 recently to hire an Indonesian maid.  “The amount included agency fees of RM7,800 and payments for flight ticket and passport.  “After all this, I am concerned about how well she can do housework. Worse still, if she runs away, we will not be able to claim anything from the agency,” said Choi.

In Johor Baru, an agent with an office in Taman Pelangi said that most Malaysians were willing to pay more than RM8,000 to hire Indonesian maids as they were in dire need of domestic help.  

Salary RM$700 = S$273
Winter: Spore is paying double.  Fresh/no experience Filipino gets a minimum S$500 with off days, Indonesian/Myanmar/Cambodia are getting S$450.

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Foreign maids ditch Malaysia, 26 Aug 2013
Despite the high demand here, recruitment agencies have been forced to switch their business or close shop due to the dwindling supply of workers from neighbouring Asian nations, Singapore’s Straits Times (ST) reported today.

The exorbitant cost of recruiting workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, a Cambodian ban on its people working as domestic helpers and language barriers with Sri Lankans and Vietnamese have hobbled the industry’s growth, the republic’s newspaper reported.

“My colleagues are opening spas and restaurants to stay in business,” Fiona Low, a 20-year veteran at the Sri Nadin maid recruiting agency here, told ST.  There are fewer than 200 active maid recruitment agencies now, according to data from the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maids Agencies, compared to 380 in service before June 2009, when Jakarta imposed a ban on sending its people here to work as maids.

And Malaysia’s domestic helper industry, which used to rake in an annual turnover of RM300 million, has shrunk to nearly half its yearly value at RM160 million, the paper reported, citing data from the Malaysia National Association of Employment Agencies.

Part of the reason appears to less than attractive salaries available here, compared to the pay offered by employers elsewhere, especially in the Far East.  For Indonesians, it is more lucrative to work as a maid in Hong Kong and Taiwan where the average monthly wage is the equivalent of RM2,292/S$893, or in Singapore where they draw an average of RM1,200/S$468.

By contrast, the average monthly salary for Indonesian maids in Malaysia remain at around RM700, despite the RM900/S$351 floor wage policy set by Putrajaya after Jakarta lifted the ban in 2011.  Indonesian maids had formed nearly 90 per cent of the industry’s workers before the 2009 moratorium here and remain the most popular supplier of domestic workers to Malaysia due to similar language and other cultural habits.

Last year, 238,000 Indonesians left home to work as maids abroad compared to some 451,000 in 2010, ST reported in a separate article.  As Indonesia’s economy improves, fewer seem inclined to seek job prospects abroad in menial labour, the paper reported.

“The pay is greater overseas but living costs are also higher.
“More and more people prefer to stay and work with less risk and near families,” Indonesia’s Manpower and Transmigration Ministry spokesman Suhartono was quoted as saying.

Closer to home, Malaysians have been compelled to turn to childcare care centres and part-time cleaners to run their households as foreign live-in maids opt out of the country.  As a result, part-time cleaning services and childcare centres have experienced a boom even after Indonesia lifted its moratorium on maids.

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OFWs In Canada Oppose ‘Forced Remittance Bill’,  20 Mar 2014

Overseas Filipino Workers in Canada joined other OFWs from other parts of the world in opposing a House of Representatives bill seeking to make remittance mandatory, and failure to comply could mean non-renewal of  passport.

Canada-based OFWs said the “forced remittance bill” is not beneficial and a burden to OFWs.  Based on the pending bill, if a dependent back home would complain that an OFW is not remitting money, the passport of the erring OFW would not be renewed.   But OFWs in Toronto are up in arms against the pending bill, especially at a time when they are having difficulty with the minimum wage of $10.25/S$11.76, which is below the poverty line.   (Winter: is this OFW/filipino maid's minimum daily salary rate? If working 9 hours daily, 26 days/mth = S$2752.  Thought places like Canada are good 'escapees' for experience maids to dig gold?  $2752 still considered low/poverty pay in prideful maids' eyes?  This salary includes live-in costs like Spore?)  

“Kung matutuloy po yung forced remittance for OFWs, it will be a big burden for OFWs. Kasi po dito sa abroad, ‘di naman  namin [basta]  pinupulot yung pera,” OFW Charity Francia told ABS-CBN Filipino Channel in Canada.  Migrante’s Jonathan Canchela for his part called on other OFWs around the world to also oppose the pending bill.

The OFWs said they are willing to bring their cause to the streets until the bill is scrapped. Despite the opposition to his bill, Señeres stood firm, insisting his proposal would offer more good than harm.

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2 Sep 2013
Hong Kong Finds New Maids, 20 August 2013, Asia Sentinel
With Indonesians, like Filipinas, having become too aware of their rights, HK turns to Bangladesh. Hong Kong recently began recruiting domestic helpers (maids) from Bangladesh, supposedly as a goodwill gesture towards the poor South Asian nation. To many, however, it is an effort to keep down wages and find a source of maids even less liable to complain than Indonesians, who had already overtaken Filipinas by number. They were considered to be less educated and thus less conscious of their theoretical rights and more willing to accept wages and working hours and conditions less than those stipulated as minimums by the government.

In practice the government, run by officials, many with deeply ingrained racial prejudices against brown Asians (the only ones permitted to be maids) makes almost no effort to enforce its own laws. Those who complain quickly find themselves jobless and with only a very short time to find new employment before being forced to leave Hong Kong. Apart from the low wages, widespread abuse is also made of laws which supposedly guarantee time off, a minimum of private living space, outlaw confiscation of travel documents and require adequate provision of medical treatment, etc.

Just what sort of attitudes the Bangladeshis can actually expect was indicated by the South China Morning Post of August 19 - a paper whose own once-large South Asian editorial team has been ethnically cleansed and mostly replaced by Chinese with lower standards of English. The paper ran the banner headline "Bangladesh maids settle into city life," carrying a long story quoting a maid and her employer who gushed about how nice the other was, the employer suggesting the maid worked too hard and did not want the stipulated day off. In a separate story by another reporter, another smiling maid was interviewed and quoted elsewhere in the paper as saying "Hong Kongers are quite nice. I feel I am quite lucky".

Both stories were clearly planted by Technic Employment Service Centre, which recruited the two maids. The attitude of the reporter for the main story, Phila Siu, was well summed up by its opening paragraph: "Frustrated with hiring domestic helpers who didn't work out, one Hong Konger took a keen interest in the news the city would bring in maids from Bangladesh."

In other words, maids from the Philippines and Indonesia were becoming too demanding of even a fraction of their rights not to be cheated and abused by local employers. Instead of following up the myriad stories of maid abuse, the SCMP has become the mouthpiece for the recruitment industry and employers looking for ever more abject and obsequious servants.

Winter: I saw above and just want to highlight that the situation in Hong Kong is quite similar to Spore. We really need a good government to set things right. Knowing source countries and agencies are so hungry for money, treating their own people like money making machines, somebody (the host country) has to put a stop. We shouldn’t be allowing source countries and agencies to quote any fee they like but the ‘product’ received is defective or not functioning well. The Lemon Law doesn’t cover Foreign Domestic Workers. Yes, we all know Spore is a nanny state, haven 温床 for lousy FDWs but there is nothing employers can do to strike a fairer deal.

Every maid is a willing party so don’t insult their intelligence and ability to compare the costs to remain in home country vs salary and benefits by accepting a FDW/FDH job. We also know that the money both employers and maids paid as placement and agency fee is ridiculous. Simply too high and not justifiable. If maids are not using 7 or 8 months salary to pay maid agencies, wouldn't it make maids work better and feel better? Why placement fee cannot be capped at 3 months? Why maids are forced to pay for in-house training (part of placement fee) in source country yet stepped into our house like sotong or know nothing? Why can't such irrelevant training or falsified cost be scrapped? Why maid agency fee cannot be capped at one month of maid's salary?

Some people die-die must proclaim maids are underpaid so how much is viewed as reasonable? If the source country has brain washed its maids to be greedy/demanding, why can't we have other 'poorer' countries as source country? If source countries are quite well off, means by sending their citizens out to work overseas, they don't see an increment of 100 to 150% in income, then it is correct to say they are underpaid. Staying in home country, the maids probably earn only S$200 but she gets to stay close to her beloved family and friends. If the current pay package is considered bad, why come to Spore or Hong Kong? If salary is so low, then why there are so many still going to HK or flying to Spore? Should live-in maids be paid similar to western income earners? Isn’t that too much to ask for? Is the living standard in both countries same? Is it right to compare strawberries with apples? Which rotten school teach you this is the right way to make an accurate comparison?
I like the following comments:

Malka: At the heart of it all, to me: Workers migrating in search of a better life is part of the human DNA and what makes us today - adapt and learn, improve, use your brains to solve problems. I understand that many maids come from impoverished areas, are ill-prepared to deal with the market system and being so desperate, they'd do anything, often ending up in the hands of unscrupulous agents/scalpers.

The HK govt can't be blamed for such entrants into the maid market, who then fall into a cycle of problematical employment relationships (exploitation being the catch-all phrase.

Couldn't the home govt set up services to educate, initiate and track the well-being of their citizens? The income generated by such workers will pay for it. Oh I know, there is the not-too-insignificant matter of corruption and are they really motivated to help their own poor citizens? There really is a limit to a 'nanny' state.

Although one might argue that govt. sponsored programs such HK's, with their conditions/restrictions on wages living conditions, residency, etc. are not equivalent/fair when compared to other workers, the maid is ultimately a willing participant, she can get immediate income and a chance to improve her marketability.

Don't forget any of these maids can apply to come to HK on their own merits if they don't wish to be 'exploited' under the FDH program. My feeling is that the Sentinel article is less principle than politics - i.e. groups protecting their turf.

1. living with employer saves maid on rental (again, part of contract - don't like it don't sign, then again, in reality, both parties agree to break contract by maid living out). Transport cost and time zero.
2. take home leave and out of HK every 2 yrs
3. C'mon - In reality, many are not continuously 'working' during the 12 hr period. A maid's schedule has to meet the family's - kids wake up early, need to be prepped for school, then are out till 3 pm, then cook dinner, etc. Many maids I know take a few hours off in the middle of the day, or take it easy. If they don't like the set up, they shouldn't sign on.

Are we going to insult their intelligence and ability to compare the costs and benefits of staying at home vs coming to HK (and other countries) to work? On the contrary, because their culture is open, sharing of information and analyses, I find most are fairly clear about what they want, usually with a good dose of humour.

Don't fault the system because it is a pretty good one - find ways to teach the 'babes in the woods' coming into an adult world how to manage. We all do what is needed to advance our career and life goals - long hours, unreasonable demands, etc. and only each can say where to draw the line.

As I said, find ways to educate and support such workers from all angles - home govt, ngos, HK govt, church etc - this has always been the way. Finally, accept that some people may be unsuited to working life, just as there are limits to a person's ability to handle life for whatever reason - these are a small minority and their examples however sad, are aside the main issues.

Marilag: everything are set by the government only the agency violated it.. like the agency in Hong Kong they are not supposed to charge the helper more than 10% of their first month salary, same as the Philippines agency .. but because the Phil. govt now stricted with no placement fee policy .. agency in hongkong looks for other alternative like to hire Bangladeshi.. and about helper working condition listed in immigration policy.. helper must entitled to have a 8 hours rest with 24 hours and most of the employer didn't follow it.. .. if the helper get up early because she need to attain the need of her ward or employer .. she is entitled a couple of hours in noon time to rest if she retired late in the evening.. but most employer let their helper work every single cent for the salary they paid for here.

Punter: I have a helper. It makes my family "operate" smoothly. I pay her correctly and on time. In general, she has a tolerable life here in HK. I hope that she saves enough money that when she decides to go home, she has enough so that she doesn't have to come back. I agree that helpers have a choice not to come here. I agree that working here as helpers is actually better for most of them than staying in their home countries without jobs, or in jobs that are very low paying even in their 3rd world home countries' standards.

Hkwatcher: HK is taking advantage of "diaspora" to solve its own problem of not having a 40 hr a week work limit. Those who come here are dreaming of making a better life back home where the money they earn goes waaay farther than here in our inflated economy.
The problem in MHO is when the governments put themselves into this equation. For example, the Phil has instituted a ZERO placement policy for hiring a Filipino. The ER bears the full burden of the cost. So if the girl quits they are out all that money again.
Why not make it bearable for everyone by charging flat fees to girls...say one month’s salary for each of the employee and employer plus the fixed costs under the terms of the contract? This is too simple for the bureaucratic minds of both HK AND Phil to get their tiny minds around. Then if the agencies don't comply, they are fined and or closed. Done and dusted...

Ranti: That article was pretty smug and neglected to look at both sides. Sure there are people whom abuse the system and do not follow the laws etc. They should be punished. Keep in mind that the respective governments of the countries whom the helpers come from are complicit in all of this. Ever heard of corruption? Agencies are made to follow rules put in place by consulates and no doubt there is some funny business going on at that level.

If anything, I applaud the HK govt for at least setting some rules for helpers once they get here and sign contracts. Paying 7 months or whatever to get hired is no doubt taking advantage of the helpers. Who gets this money? Agents and...............surprise surprise - the corrupt government staff of the countries the helpers come from.

If you hire a helper, then do what's right and treat them with respect and fairness. No more, no less. HK is not perfect, but the growth in helpers coming here indicates that it's not as bad as The Sentinel is painting it to be.

Malka: The Phils govt foreign maid policy is not a HK govt issue is it? If they wish to gain more out of it, they have to face the consequences. Marilag's account gives a good picture of the fears of someone in her shoes FOB (fresh off the boat).
She said the Phils agency originally is the culprit, charging very high fees and it is the rule to use the same agency - whatever, it is still 10%; though challenging can mean a lot of problems for the maids, so must be solved.
Sentinel should perhaps be more active in lobbying the Phils govt to ensure reasonable fees. Beyond that, every worker does make their own calculation whether to go out or not. I don't agree on legislation about 40 hr work week - it won't solve the problem neither for HK nor maids. Take Europe, especially France, all the pro-worker legislation making it harder for markets to solve problems - are the workers better off?

Hkwatcher: The laws regulating the charges or fees are set by the government Not the industry itself. Because of corruption and an inability (or distaste for) enforcing the regulations I am sorry but I DO lay this at the door of the govt. I am simply suggesting that something that is measurable and realistic for both sides AND the agencies (who many blame for all the problems) have the bar clearly set and be made accountable. Receipts and reporting if necessary.

Re 40 hour work week is my way of saying that HK has few boundaries and little compassion for families with children. With a small child attending school and high and higher rents requiring two incomes. Unless one has an extended family living here in HK to offer support. HK does not provide much in the way of childcare, then what is the average person to do?

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10 Apr
Extracted these from a Hongkong forum:
As a domestic helper, her words are fair. There are bad helpers and good helpers, be it in Spore or Hong Kong.  When you are too nice to your maids, it could spoil and make them a worsen person. Those who know how to appreciate good employers will remain good and do an even better job ... but how many FDWs do not take things for granted, know how to count their blessings?

Yes, there are bad Sg employers but they get punished and their names were publicised. What about those who are good but were poorly treated by their ungrateful FDWs?  Who came forward to seek justice for such employers?  Who is there to punish bad maids and agencies?  Nobody!

For those FDWs looking forward to work in HK, you need to know not all HK employers are angels, there could be bad ones who make you work long hours, provide insufficient food, make you sleep with 7 cats (my ex-HK filipino said so), etc.  They are still humans, like you, imperfect!  Also, you need to pay agency a fee to fly over. 

Whether in HK or Taiwan, you are a paid worker, not a slave even though your employer didn't give your 8 hours continuous rest each day.  Not happy?  Voice out, feedback truthfully to your agent or discuss with your employer.  Don't give lame excuses or use actions (eg banging tables, act forgetful)/body language to let your employer guess.  Don't pretend you are an easy going and co-operative person by saying 'Yes' or 'ok, mam' to everything and then don't deliver it to show your discontentment.  

Direct-hire filipino, to work in Hong Kong cost about HK$4000, ie only S$630 ... so cheap!  I was quoted S$2208 for direct hire to Sg, before hiring JA.  
DH agency fee is HK$50k, ie only S$1500 ... lesser than what most agencies are charging the FDWs.

What employers should do when you have hired a thief?  Police and MOM will not believe you based on your word.  Get evidence and witness, eg police. 

HK employer harassed to pay for DH.  DH employers in Hongkong are not required to help pay maid's placement fee/loan.  It is Spore that is trying to make us suffer by allowing agencies to get employers pay for maids and deduct from their physical employment, with a term of no salary for 7-8 months (FDWs thought they are unpaid for their services and employers are cheating them).  If FDWs can't work 2 years, we (low to middle income employers) are the ones to suffer more than any of you!

All the while, I thought HK employer must send the DH home if she is not keen to work for her or found unsuitable.  I wish I can have a FDW who is so sensible like Marilyn.  

I hope my blog and frustrations with FDWs, did try to help some employers from getting ripped off by smart & scheming maids, knowing all the tricks in Sg, loopholes and about being lobbied by MOM and activists. This is a blog that is viewable by everybody, including net savvy FDWs, thus, they can also learn more to manage employers!

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9 Apr - Happened to read this.  Was posted in year 2011.
Poster said her close relative who had a foreign maid for many years. She is a Filipino who came to Singapore with zero experience. Her relative taught her how to cook and clean. She became a really good domestic helper and cook.

"After 8 years, she decided to quit and go to work in Hong Kong, assuming she can get much higher pay. After 3 months in Hong Kong, she called my relative to ask if she could return to work for her.

Upon her return, she told my relative that she lied to her Hong Kong employer that her mother was very ill, she needed to return to the Philippines. And, she left all her winter clothes behind to give the impression that she was returning to Hong Kong. She also said that on her off days, her Hong Kong employer expected her to stay out of the house and no dinner would be provided. And, she had to buy her own toiletries.

In Singapore, my relative would keep dinner for her on her off days; buy her toiletries and clothes in her regular shopping trips.

Sadly, Singapore has become a training ground for inexperienced maids. Once they gained 2 years experience, they jump ship to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan for higher pay. Now, Singapore employers have to pay even higher salary for inexperienced maids to compete with Hong Kong/Taiwan!"

Winter: It is true that maids are paid more in Hong Kong but the working and living conditions are far tougher, the employers expectations are much higher.  How many can survive if FDWs had been over pampered in Spore and too well protected by MOM's policies?   No maid will tell you she has been pampered in Spore but her actions will show, her words and comparision are the best proof! Throw her to a demanding employer and let her be awakened, read above again or browse the net and search yourself! 

There are good and bad people.  Nobody is perfect because we are human beings.  But to be a better human being (employee/FDW/DH), you can if you want to!  You can change to fit the requirements of your employer if you need that not-too-bad job.  It makes both parties have a better life if both are clear on what you wanted. 

I am a person who believe we must be transparent, don't lie to get a job and treat my house/my girl as toy.  What my FDW need to do in my house, she has to know during interviews.  My only mistake is I didn't ask FDW to write down her committment and what she understand, the job scope that I have illustrated and her expectations.  FDW will say 'OK' to everything that you said during interviews, how OK is OK, you'll know when she joins your household. 

My advice to employers looking for transfer maids, ask them to write in English, don't write for her and ask her to sign because she is very likely to say didn't see, don't understand or don't know what she has signed!  Also, she might get you mixed up with other prospective employer's requirements.  Even with a native agent to translate, my FDWs can still claim don't know .... this is extremely frustrating.  To me, she is a liar, a great pretender!  Having a black and white is your best protection. 

There may be a lot of good employers but in order to protect themselves, they are labelled as BAD.  Bad doesn't mean the maid is abused or ill-treated by employer, it means maid didn't get the 'sweets' that she wanted eg a better life - short working hours, high salary, plenty 'official time-off' during working hours, at the expense of employers.  As long as you didn't give in or match maid's expectations, you're very likely to be tagged BAD or lousy employer.

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22 Jan
My current Indonesian FDW who has 'survived' only one month in Hong Kong fed me some new info. 

Indonesians who fly to HK work as FDH are not required to give a lump sum payment, in advance to maid agency (Sg maid agencies made employers pay for their FDWs in advance so that agencies have no follow-up and admin work).   Her agency charged her for every month that she worked.  Which means, she only gave agency one month HK salary.  If she continued to stay, she'll have to pay agency 7 months HK salary.  Said she looked forward to go back to HK but getting re-employed is not as easy as coming to Spore.  She wanted to have off days from her first month and doesn't like the standard practice of FDWs must complete loan before enjoying weekly off days.  In HK, she was able to use mobile phone to log into her Facebook account.

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20 Dec 2012 
My ex-filipino helper, J managed to survive 10 months in Hong Kong.  J claimed her employers made her share a bedroom with 7 cats!  Told me Hong Kong FDHs were given weekly off days and statutory holidays off.  The expenses incurred during her non-working days were high.  Salary looked high but if weekly off days were taken, it was unsustainable, don't have much money left to send home.  Claimed that accommodation for FDHs were unsatisfactory.  Some employers do not provide accommodation so the salary FDHs received, included finding a place to stay.  Employment terms were not as great as Singapore.

FDHs are not allowed to be transferred to other employers in HK.  If they are fired or decide to terminate employment, FDHs have to buy own air ticket home.  J felt coming to Spore to work is much better than HK.  After completing 22 months with me, she job-hopped to another Spore employer.  She shot me before getting a transfer out. 
My current Indonesian FDW claimed she couldn’t continue working in Hong Kong because her employers made her work for 3 houses.  She was in HK for only one month!

I asked her what time she woke up and went to bed everyday, M told me she woke up around 6 am and was able to sleep around 9 pm.  I thought she left HK, a dreamland for FDWs because she was overworked or exploited.  Based on the time she gets to rest, I don’t think she told me the truth.  Very likely she was fired due to her poor performance and bad English.  HK employers set very high standards, interested to hire FDHs with working experience in Spore and will allow FDHs who really can work well to stay.  Low quality FDHs will be fired and not allowed to be recycled in HK.  The FDHs got to pull their socks up and cannot laze around in order to remain in HK.

FDWs with Hong Kong experience are flying back to Spore, what does this means?
Spore is a safe and perfect haven for FDWs.  Bad, rejected by HK .... our MOM and activists welcome you to work here and bully Spore employers.

In Hong Kong and Taiwan, foreign domestic helpers (FDH) must fully pay for their loan before they could leave their home country. There's no such thing as employer made to pay upfront maid loan.  FDHs probably taken up loans from banks, friends or relatives so they had no choice but to work hard and pay back.  FDHs knew they are fully responsible for their own actions and every wrong decisions.  

Hong Kong employers offered high salary and weekly off days on appearance but how much are FDHs protected?  How much money does each FDH send home?  In Spore, FDW's take home pay, if she doesn't spend on mobile phone or luxury, she can actually have a take home pay of at least S$400 ie, whatever base salary the employer agreed to pay her monthly.  FDWs' live-in costs are fully covered by respective employers. 

No matter how bad/errant the maids are, MOM and activists such as HOME, MWC, TWC tend to feel sorry for them and very willing to help.  We have seen on news, they don't mind waste time to help those FDWs who claimed abused, molested or ill-treated by employers.  MOM and activists chose to believe FDWs' stories 101% and only willing to spend 1% or zero time to hear employers.  Employers looked like devils!  Nobody, especially non-FDW employer, wants to believe we are being exploited and bullied.

Do you know some FDWs who claimed ill-treated and not given enough food were actually their own doings?  They only want to eat food they are familiar with.  Refused to touch mee, pasta, porridge or bread.   Some are too pampered!  They are only keen to eat good and expensive food.  Flown into Spore to sponge on employers, enjoy life as much as possible and uninterested to carry out their duties as FDWs.  One of my friends new FDW poured away porridge or simply throw food away and told neighbours her employers didn't give her food, she's starving, asked them to pity her and give her food!

Maid with personal mobile phone

Employers, let's try to help one another because MOM has no intention to be fair to us.

FDWs who are poisoned by activists/trouble-makers, played us out or act stubborn and untrainable should not be given any chance to work in Spore.
'Rotten apples' who are not keen to help us as FDW should be discarded. Let's share, feedback to MOM that we are unfairly treated and forced to be FDWs' nanny.

Click: Content page - All topics

女佣用手机 问题特别多17/08/2015  新明日报



女佣介绍所Orange Employment负责人黄秋萍告诉《新明日报》,有雇主上门问津时的其中一条件是:“最好不用手机。两年前有约20%的雇主不愿意聘请使用手机的女佣,可是如今已经飙升到70%。”


More and more employers disagree that maids should use mobile phone during work time.  Mobile phone usage has been the main cause of problems. Two years ago, only 20% employers disallowed.  Now, according to agencies feedback, 70% Spore employers prefer to employ FDWs who don't use mobile phone freely.  Agent from Orange Employment said one of the top requirements of walk-in employer is "maid without mobile phone"

Winter: I believe most employers don't mind maids to use personal phones in the night (not wee hours) after daily work is done but to demanding and insensible maids, it is a form of restriction, an inhuman way to control them, something that shouldn't' exist in Spore, a place that loves foreigners. 

FDWs felt having a 24/7 mobile phone usage is the top priority to work as happy maids.  FDWs don't care whether engrossed with their phones will cause distraction and shabby work delivered or accident caused.  No big deal, any inconvenience caused or accidents (eg injury), the unlucky employer foot the bill as well as the mental stress, not them.  

Being inconsiderate is their 'modern' rights as a FDW.  Making themselves happy at employers' expense is what a 'lowly paid human being' should behave.... FDWs have been brainwashed by activists to find trouble for their employers ... upholding "human rights" or "maid is not a slave", are very good excuses to demand favourable terms. 

FDWs don't really need a job so they set their expectations higher and higher.... knew MOM is backing them, will do its best to collaborate with source countries and maid agencies!

Employer listed prefer to employ maid without mobile, is that possible?  FDW can lie to get a job.  Once in your house, she whop out her phone or secretly hide in the toilet to meddle with her phone, intentionally 'forget' she said she can work without mobile phone, what can you do? Send her to police station and get your money back?  Send her back to her agency and suffer the monetary +time losses?  Lying is not an offence so FDW won't be jailed, fined or blacklisted by MOM.  Accept the agency's mediation to keep a liar .... give her another chance?  If MOM doesn't step in to stop FDWs' nonsense and poor work mentality, nobody can save you from the clutches of unscrupulous FDWs and agencies.  

Don't assume FDWs are vulnerable, they received little education so know what is best for them.  FDWs are no longer weaklings or 'stupid', their voices/grievances can be heard very quickly via phone - sms, Facebook, Whatsapp, Viber .... so who's crying or bleeding profusely behind?  You!  
Can Employers put a stop to this?  No but you can keep shooting emails to MOM and ministers.
Who has the rights to put things in proper order and ensure the quality of FDWs don't deteriorate? Ministry of Manpower!

Maids' phone use at work a safety risk, ST forum, 19 Jul 2015
As my family sympathises with maids having to work so far away from their families, we have given them the privilege of using their mobile phones to call home whenever they wished ("More employers unhappy over maids' mobile phone usage"; last Sunday).

However, one maid was on her phone, uploading photos of herself, late into the night, compromising on the eight hours of sleep we insisted she have.  Another had her wireless earpiece in her ear all day, chatting as she did the household chores, including cooking. Worried that she might scald herself, we told her to stop talking while she was cooking, but she insisted that her phone was not a hindrance.

I have seen maids allowing their young charges to run across the road as they continued chatting on the phone.  Who should bear responsibility if mishaps occur because of maids' use of the mobile phone?

Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics executive director Jolovan Wham said it is highly disrespectful and inappropriate for employers to keep maids' mobile phones. But is it respectful and appropriate for maids to be spending their working hours on phone calls and Facebook, and increase electricity usage by charging the phones often?

If a maid feels that she has to use her mobile phone often, then it is only fair for her to inform her prospective employer about this. The maid can reject any employment that forbids her to use her phone frequently. Similarly, a prospective employer can decide if a maid who needs to use her phone frequently would be suitable.

Elizabeth Ng Boon Kwan (Mrs)

Don't deprive maids of mobile phones, ST Forum, 19 Jul 
As much as I understand maid employers' concern over the issue of mobile phone use, I would like to highlight the plight of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) if they are not allowed access to their mobile phones ("More employers unhappy over maids' mobile phone usage"; last Sunday).

Mobile phones are primarily used by many FDWs to keep in touch with their loved ones at home. This channel of communication is crucial to the mental and emotional well-being of the FDWs, as this will give them the peace of mind to focus on their job, which actually benefits their employers.

Working and living in a foreign country can be very lonely. Distressed FDWs know they can receive the much-needed emotional support by just calling our hotline or their fellow FDWs. In fact, our hotline is filled with calls from them, citing loneliness and the fear of being left alone as their major concern.

The issue at hand is really not about depriving them of their mobile phones but more about managing expectations, and education. As in any other work setting, there are fair practices related to Internet access and telephone use.

Therefore, a similar set of fair practices can be appropriated by the employers.  By so doing, it brings about a better understanding and the safeguarding of each other's interests, resulting in a win-win situation for both sides.

Employment agencies can also play an influential role in educating the FDWs, especially the new ones, on the appropriate use of mobile phones.  FDWs can be educated on the cost of usage, the dangers of engaging strangers on social media and the need to keep within their employer's expectations. If necessary, this can be included in the terms of employment. In fact, I understand some employment agencies have already done so.

I look forward to seeing fair engagement from employers in setting proper and reasonable expectations, fair practices, coupled with education on the use of mobile phones by their FDWs instead of prohibiting them from using it.

Seah Seng Choon
President, Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training

More employers unhappy over maids' mobile phone usage, Straits Times, 12 Jul 2015
 Mobile phones are increasingly causing rifts between domestic helpers and employers here.  Bosses say phones are distraction but maids say they need to keep in touch with family

The number of complaints about maids using phones has doubled in the past two years, say maid agents.  Such complaints used to make up 20 per cent of all grouses. At the Orange Employment Agency, they now make up seven in 10, said owner Shirley Ng. "It's the top peeve employers have," she said. "Some will ask for maids who do not want mobile phones."

Many employers claim their maids spend too much time on their phones organising their social lives instead of doing their job.  Ms Ng said some employers are also concerned maids might become addicted to using their phones and end up stealing to fund the habit.

A poll of 670 maids in Singapore by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) showed that at least 70 per cent of them experienced communication restrictions, with more than 100 saying they have had their phones taken away.

I'm scared that if she takes her eye off my kid or my mother (who uses a wheelchair), they may fall or cut themselves.  MADAM SIM C. K., who allows her maid to use her phone only after 8pm

I needed to keep in touch with my husband, sick mother and three children.  After I got my phone, I felt guilty.  MS GIRLIE RENCODO GULAY, a domestic worker from the Philippines
The phone is a constant distraction, said Madam Sim C. K., who allows her maid to use it only after 8pm. "I'm scared that if she takes her eye off my kid or my mother (who uses a wheelchair), they may fall or cut themselves," she said.  Once, her mother almost slipped and fell in the toilet while the maid was using her phone, she said.  Agents said some maids have two phones - one to surrender to employers, the other to use in secret.

Ms Girlie Rencodo Gulay, a domestic worker from the Philippines, said she has no choice but to hide her mobile phone.  "I asked my employer if I could have a phone and he said no," she said. "I needed to keep in touch with my husband, sick mother and three children. After I got my phone, I felt guilty. I know my obligations as a maid, but I didn't know what else to do."

Agents urged employers to set up ground rules early.  "But the rules need to be fair," said Ms Ng. For example, she advised employers to let their maids use phones earlier in the evening because their family members do not stay up late in the villages.

Ms Ng said: "It's not practical to expect maids not to have mobile phones these days. It's a way for them to talk to their family."  In fact, employment agency Best Home started giving free prepaid SIM cards to helpers last year after an increasing number of employers complained that their maids racked up bills on their home phones of up to $1,000.

Best Home owner Tay Khoon Beng said: "The employers know that I've given the (maids) the SIM cards, so it encourages them to talk about mobile phone usage.  "The cards also teach maids personal responsibility. They need to be careful not to overspend on phone calls and data."

Not every employer disapproves. Mrs Yang M. S. likes her maid from Myanmar to have a phone - not least because it helps her look up recipes online.  "It's very convenient for us to communicate through WhatsApp if I need her help in running errands," she added.

A Manpower Ministry spokesman said it had received some 200 complaints from employers each month for the past three years on "a wide range of issues, from bad work attitude to theft".

The number represents less than 0.1 per cent of the 222,500 foreign domestic workers here, he added. 

Denying a maid a phone is another way of isolating her, said advocacy groups.  Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of Home, said: "We have had many complaints from domestic workers that their employers keep their phones or allow them to use them only at night or on their days off on Sundays only."  Mr Wham said it was important to allow maids their mobile phones because of the live-in nature of their work.

"Employers should not even be keeping the worker's personal property in the first place. It is highly disrespectful and inappropriate. If we don't expect our employers to keep our mobile phones, we should not be doing the same to domestic workers."

Posted in my blog under "Why set up a blog", 23 March, 2015
I am preparing myself with a back up plan since my maid of 2 years has become big headed when ask if she wants to renew her contract. I have been very good employer and treat her like a family to only take care of my only son who is in the kindergarten. After a year with us, i ask if she wants an off day and she refuse. Because going out with me is luxury to her as she gets to eat what we eat and she gets to go to places (even paid) which we paid for her. She has her own room and privacy. The only thing she does not have is a handphone which i am against. Reason i have witness a maid busy talking on the phone that she lost sight of an active toddler crossing the road. Until one passersby act quickly to save the boy. I've also seen maids hanging around at the playground talking to each other and let another toddler of below 5yrs old to hurt herself because she was busy chit chatting. I am not against them socialising, but in their own country they are less traffic, less playgrounds and they kids play at their own backyard. Most maids love to chit chat and forgot who they are. I have all this experience for more than a decade. Now that the indonesian president has proposed to stop all his indonesian women to work as maids and to be educated with skills such as nurses and etc. I mentioned this to my maid, that it is a good move so less troubles make. And let the troubles goes to back in their country. These maids have an enjoyable time as 90% of Singaporeans who has maid because both parents are working. We buy a house that is beautiful but for the maid to enjoy these luxury while we slog ourselves everyday at work to make ends meet. Is this the life we want in Singapore.? Especially, no bodies are on our side.

Posted in my blog under "House Rules" on 22 March, 2015

As an expat who enjoys much about Singapore I can say the helper/maid situation is most frustrating. I feel deeply for local families who must depend on these ladies and I worry about the safety of Singapores children. Even as an expat employer who provides a generous salary, very good working conditions (same food as us plus plenty of rest time) I have had one 1 in 3 ladies that was worth her salary. Why do I have a helper in my home? Because I have a husband that does serious amounts of long distance travel and no family to rely on in Singapore and small children and the purpose is to cover for the few times I have been sick. I managed just fine working full time using childcare with some support from my mom and mil previously. My first lady was great and I couldn't really at that stage understand a lot of the frustration about helpers.. My second helper I fired on day 18 due to serious safety issues (lost my 3 year old - lucky he wasn't injured). And the current helper is so lazy (I believe an addiction to facebook is the real issue) that we will be terminating her contract early and simply having a cleaning lady to help once a week. I think maybe Singapore needs to consider long day childcare as a real option going forwards and then you will have workers who genuinely want to work with small children and workers who are passionate about child safety and child welfare. I have lost track of the number of times I have had to rescue children because their care giver was talking on her phone(oh and that's never been a mum!). After 5 years in Singapore I can understand why some employers would remove their helpers phone because they want a situation where they can know their helper isn't distracted by their phone, sadly they aren't trying to mean or nasty they just want safety to come first. I look forward to not having an employee and the frustrations of someone who ignores a reasonable job scope (previous helper had no issues finishing it nor did my cleaning lady in 4 hours!) but current one cant seem to manage it (again its the constant need to be surfing on her phone that stops her completing her work). After so many years watching as a guest some of the things I have seen should have made my hair curl.

Sep 2013
Life is meaningless without 24/7 mobile phone access?  Read
Activists point fingers at employers for not letting their FDWs be freely connected.  Read

Maids like to compare (so do I but I know my limits and my actual value) and refused to be at losing end. What her friends or other FDWs have, she felt it is part of a FDW's entitlement in Spore... a norm. She felt those are necessary, a must and should be across the island .... employer must give these 'basics'. Otherwise, she will boycott, give bad attitude and/or give employer a tough life. Maids chose to ignore the terms of their contracts and MOM's law. 

Take for example, when I interviewed my current maid JA, I stressed my conditions to employ her was that she cannot use her mobile phone 24/7. She agreed with her agency acting as witness. There's no such thing as being forced to agree. Obviously, I've respected her as human being, didn't cheat her so expected her to behave like a working adult and honour her words ... be fair to both and truly accepted my conditions for 2 years. If she felt uneasy, don't come to my house. My house is not a testing ground. I cannot afford the time to train and money spent to recruit her... a liar. 

I was very clear and quite reluctant to have JA when she accepted my conditions. After conversation with agent to remind and explain to JA my conditions, also the needs of my girl so JA must think carefully before making a final decision. But Day one, the day JA officially started work, she requested full access to her phone. Few months later, she saw my sister-in-law's new maid (Filipino with no off days) toying her mobile phone in the day, she said new maid can have, why not her?

All I wanted is a helper, somebody who knew my terms and conditions, agreed and will deliver them without so much resistance or problems after onboarding. There are so many employers in Spore, if you're good and your demands are reasonable, I don't see a reason why you'll be left on the shelf.... landing in my house, a place of no choice.... unbelievable!

There are more than 40 mobile phone shops in Lucky Plaza, waiting to make money from the domestic maids (FDW).  Mobile phones are no longer considered a luxury item (even if it cost S$200 to $800).  FDWs and activists felt mobile phones are basic necessities.  FDWs felt having one or two mobile phones is part of being treated like a human being.  You, as an employer can't interfere or stop them from owning expensive gadgets (FDWs can claim no money when she breaks/spolits employer's things but buying mobile, they don't mind, cash rich, becomes 有钱挥霍) ... in the name of staying connected with friends and families far far away. 

If you deny your maid from happily using her phone, she felt she's a slave working under harsh conditions ... you are a tyrant!  If you tell her nicely that mobile phones can only be used 'after work', which often is in the nights, not 24/7, some demanding and bad working attitude maid will fire you or bad mouth you, claiming she has the rights to use her phone.... part of human rights!  You'll know how bad she can make you feel when you hired such a FDW.

What I want to say is, if the employment term - using the mobile phone has been stated before you were employed, you should abide.  There's no such thing as telling white lies and expecting people to give in to your bad working ethics.  You can reject a job that you don't feel happy with ... don't lie!  You have been protected by the activists to lie and get a job in Spore.  If you continue to have such bad conduct or excuses 人在做 天在看 迟早会有报应 降临你身 或身边所爱。

4 Sep
Extracted some posts related to FDWs using mobile phone during working hours. To these maids, mostly Filipinos, they defined using mobile phones as and when they want is part of human rights. Sounds like Filipino FDWs find it hard to survive without their phones 24/7. How and when the maid suppose to use the phone is determined by their needs.

Employers prefer maids to use personal phones in the night but to demanding and insensible maids, it is a form of restriction, an inhuman way to control them. This ex-Sin maid who manages a page in Facebook commented these:

"But most maid hide the phone, because they understand that Singaporean employer hate to see their maid talk on the phone. If you find your maid talking, we hope you just turn blind eye and don't add their stress of having to hide the phone."
"You don't own others' life. Maid is not so much brain work, talking on the job make the work easier and faster and fills the heart with connection to our friends."
"DON'T MAKE YOUR MAID FEEL BAD ABOUT USING THE PHONE. It is really a human right to use the phone to be connected with the rest of the world. If you make your maid feel like a criminal when she uses the phone, she will ACT like a criminal by using the phone when you're not looking, like when walking the dog which really requires the exercise."

Most maids cannot multi-tasks. If you make them do multi-tasking, something bad might happen. If your maid's phone suddenly rings, she holds the phone and chit-chat while crossing the road AND FORGOT ABOUT SAFETY, that could mean putting your child and her life at risk, can employer afford to cry over spilled milk?

If your maid is frying half way (using gas) and her phone rings, she rushes to answer and forgot what she's cooking, you don't mind? This is the reason why some employers who entrusted some 'high-risks' tasks such as above, cannot have a maid holding her personal phone 24/7. We know the working habits of maids so we do not want to take risks. I must admit, I cannot and also don't want to be distracted when carrying out the said 'high-risk' work. I don't use phone or ear piece and cause my attention diverted. Employer cannot afford to bear the consequences of a forgetful or irresponsible FDW. Certain maids are hired to do solely housework. Such maids, I doubt the tasks involves life and death or dreadful consequences.... at most, like what you saw last year, on the news, Indonesians fall from windows while doing cleaning.

Maids who are using human rights as an excuse often lose their main focus in their day job or the children they are suppose to attend to. They are too engrossed in fighting for all sorts of nonsense. When I use the word "insensible" and "selfish", this is the kind of maid I am referring to:

Jena Pascua - Talking on the phone is human right and unless we use our own money to pay for our top up!!!

Bubetha Bonita - As long as she did her work well, she knows her responsibility. The more u restrict and control her the more she will be rebellious. This is personal thing and i personally believe that employer should not supposed to intervene. Being someone working with u is supposed to be employer-employee relationship, Not that if who is in control!

Lorelee Jardeleza - oh what a shame u just let ur maid use only on weekend try not to be boastfull by saying u treat her good coz its goddamn bullshit what if u dont communicate with ur family for one whole day what do u feel ? It seems that ur not human madam ! and ur contract is a very big shit if i may add so where in a year that is not a stoneage so better wake up or ur helper will say bye bye to u and its ur job to provide her food and basic need and to treat her as a human too its a common knowledge and it is written in the contract too."
"think what u own her life without ur helper to clean ur shit u can survive? She is a human too and by taking away her personnal things and her only ways of communicating with her loveones is good ?thats stealing one half of her happiness no wonder she hide it from u and pls lor dont consider urself as a very good employer coz by doing this to her ur labeled as a stupid and bullshit one try to think before u hit the button!"
"want their maid to be a slave to clean and act like a criminal coz employer like her is a thief of happiness next day if the maid cant take it anymore she will runaway"

This is the kind of maid, we define as preferred helpers. They are accommodating and fully understand why some employers imposed restriction. Reasons are not because employers are cruel, inhuman or like to control a 'slave' (OMG!). These maids didn't find excuses such as human rights. This is what they posted:

Calusa Narcisa - I know my duty n responsibility as they know also I am not crazy on talking nonsense n don't waste my money to buy top up as I know to save money n they told me I am old enough.

Angel Lucero Navarro - Been working as a domestic helper here in Singapore for almost 10yrs..my own policy is that no phone during working hrs..we came here to work,earn money,save our earnings and not to waste for buying phone cards.there's always time for us to communicate with our love ones back home, not working hours.

Above maids such as Calusa Narcisa and Angel Lucero Navarro, I hope you remain happy here and have a plesant relationship with all your employers. I hope more FDWs like your goodself come to Spore and if possible, I could get such an understanding helper like you to join my household.

2 Jun - Handphone and internet communication
According to the owner of a maid's Facebook "no human being should stop another human from using it."

A reader wrote this to her: I am a Singaporean employer. My dear I believe in human rights and have been following your page faithfully to know how maids think.
I am not blowing my own trumpet but can say that I am a good employer. I let my maid eat what we eat generously. I don stinge on food. I have told her to hel...
p herself to the biscuits, snacks, etc when hungry. I provide for her everything including mop and gloves. She uses the washing machine. She's been with us for 4 months now. A Filipino. I was glad i found her! My kids love her to bits. I believed I was the lucky one to get a good helper. But today my trust was broken.

You see in the contract it says she can only use her handphone on weekends. Mon to fri no hp. Fri night to Sunday night she can have her Hp. This is only for 6 months. After 6 months she will keep her phone with her. I was so good to her and even bought her a singtel SIM card to use. But today I caught her using another phone with starhub SIM card. She was messaging secretly. Then she hid the phone in her pants. To be more accurate at her groin area. She didn't know I was looking. She thought I am sleeping.

I am so disappointed my dear. She is taking care of my infant baby who is only 4 mths old. Won't the Hp messaging distract her? Other than this I don have any other issues with her. I am happy with her performance. I am happy with the way she handles my kids and house. She cooks very well. And at times she shares with me so many things. When we go out we don look like employer and maid. We look like friends! I will chat with her just like my friend. Then why this secrecy in phone usage? I don't understand. I have even told her she can tell me if she needs her phone urgently. I can pass it to her. I am not so strict you know. In fact today I bought for her slippers to wear at home as old ones were so worn out. I take care of her so well and didn't expect this from her. I am so sad. Can you pls explain to me from a maid's point of view? I will feel much better.

FB Maid's view:
handphone is so important, it has become human right. sometimes contract is unfair, it encourage or force people to break the contract. Instead of contract you should view things from reasonable, human point of view.

Without handphone we maids are disconnected from the world, and become depressed and destroyed.

Don't take things from just the written word. The most important thing in the world is how the heart should view things. Revisit your heart again, feel the power of the heart, and rethink. The secrecy is because of the stupid contract which say `only use phone during weekends'. Most of the time using the phone is not urgent, it is a social need, the need to be connected.

Please understand, sometimes, when the agreement is unfair or stupid or misinformed or wrong, the contract must be changed, or both parties will suffer as you are suffering now. Actually you will stop suffering once you accept that some change must be done to a contract which is not realistic, not fair.

This is now a connected world, everybody is connected. You should also think of giving wifi to your maid. Even without wifi they will use data card or steal wifi from neighbour. giving wifi to your maid is a sensible thing if she request it, and it will only result in better trust, and an easier relationship without lies and hiding.

Finally I want to say again - internet, phone communication today, is a human need, it should be a human right - meaning, if they can afford, they should be allow to use - no human should prevent another from handphone or internet communication.

Winter:  Nobody keen to know Employers have lost all human rights.  To them, we are not human beings who deserve similiar respect or get a trustworthy person who should carry out her job as per contract/interview.  The way MOM/activists have shown us is that liars are welcomed in Spore to give employers headaches.  Nobody should blame maids for telling white lies (cheat) in order to get a juicy job.  A standard employment contract is used by Spore maid agencies, recommended by AEAS and CASE.  If maid wants to work in Spore, she is suppose to honour it.  If FDWs knew what are the terms yet chose to fly over and cheat us, they are in the wrong but nobody taking action on them.

We are not made of flesh and blood, will be hurt because MOM/activists/FDWs viewed Employers (won't feel pain) as conveniently located ATM machines to pay for all the damages/problems FDWs purposely created.  Maids looked very lowly paid, cannot make them pay for their problems, people felt cruelty can be channelled to employers because we earn more than FDWs but maybe just earning only 20-40% compared to a highly paid PAP minister's salary (Eg MP draws $10,000/month, the low to middle income salaried employee only earns about $2000/month).  Whatever lies she told or problems maids gave, we caused them to turn bad, eg above.  We failed to give FDWs plenty of chances to learn to be an appreciative person, at our expense.  Pathetic employers! 

24 Mar
JA, my current and final filipino FDW has been pestering me to let her use her mobile during the day.  I decided I can't be too soft so reminded her during interviews, I have indicated very clearly, my initial requirement was for my FDW to use her mobile during weekly off days but I gave in to her, that is allowing her to use in the night, after finishing her chores.  I have stressed that she has to consider my employment and whether she can fully accept personal mobile is not a 24/7 benefit in my house.  I have made a strong stand to both the agent at Far East Plaza and JA that I am unwilling to take risk by allowing FDW to use mobile during the day.  There's no excuse to say being forced to work in my house or didn't hear properly!  Transfer maids have a choice! Shouldn't act pitiful and lie to others she wasn't informed of any harsh rules before employment or forced to accept a job. 

To avoid frickle minded or dishonest FDW (avoid landing in the same plight as me), I suggest FDW's employer to get FDW write in the contract and ask her sign before you make full payment to the agency .... if 24/7 mobile or off day may be a future problem 导火线.  Make the agent be eye witness.  It is better to be 先小人后君子, 防患於未然,省麻烦!FDWs nowadays tend to be not trustworthy or honest, don't understand why they prefer to be a person with no dignity 毫无人格,不觉得羞耻.  They learn tactics to manage employers instead of standing firm from bad influence and deliver what they promised you before employment.  耳跟软,轻易被人唆使 / 影响或本性就是坏. 

Employers can choose to play angels,  believe FDWs, trust they know how to control their mobile phone usage, I didn't say you cannot give FDW the benefit of doubt or leeway, she's your FDW, not mine!  My experience with my current filipino transfer maid proved that giving in to her request is opening my gate to problems.  She doesn't appreciate I am trying to be an accommodating and understanding boss.

JA said she promised she will not use her mobile unless emergency.  If she didn't turn on mobile ring or touch her phone all the time, how would she know when is urgent?  JA can use her mobile every evening so what kind of life and death situation could there be?   Her 'friend' met with an accident so she need to dash over to help?  Her family in Philippines need her advice so she must call them instantly?   Example, her 17 years old son got drunk again so she must give him a motherly concern or lecture?

According to agency, JA could only start taking weekly off day after finishing one week with me so her first no-off Sunday, I purposely left her mobile on the desk and I could see her smsing and making calls.  Confirm, she can't keep her hands off her mobile.  Trust is by seeing with your own eyes!

JA promised she will not be a heavy phone user if I allow her to use her mobile during the day... first few days with me proved that I can't give her the benefit of doubt.  My wake up call to her was I said, by pestering me to use mobile during the day instead of every evening after finishing her chores, she has already broken her promise and that was only Day 1 of the employment!

Full trust is not to be given blindly, it must be earned through months of observation.  By trusting somebody too freely, especially FDW, a person who has access to your personal life, handling your precious ones, living under the same roof .... you really need to open your eyes big enough to see and ears open wide to hear.  Don't be naive to believe 人性本善.  You may need to pay a high price to learn a painful lesson.  Play safe than be sorry. We are the ones paying, not FDWs, they won't feel the pinch!

Nowadays, it is not easy to get a FDW who will agree to no mobile phone unless you are hiring a fresh maid who is compensated with no off days, totally in your sight, no chance to interact with others ie 95% won't turn bad then I agree there are FDWs who can live in Spore without a mobile phone and won't turn bad or affect her job performance.  All my FDWs are outdoor persons, have to take my girl to school via mrt so there's no way I can keep any FDW employed in my name to be unpolluted.   To be good or bad FDW, she decides, not me.  I can advise JA but she choose whether those are nags and not benefiting her.

I wish I can clone another of me so I need not hire FDWs.  Still a mother to my girl and giving her unconditioned love and care.  One to stay home and another 'me' to work.

27 Feb
Today is my bad day.  I was shot by an experienced FDW and an activist.
This FDW put up an ad so I thought of sounding her whether she's keen to help me look after my girl.  She sms me "no thanks but Im not interested to work with a person like you.. we r FDW, we r human being too same as you, we know our rights and responsibilities as Fdw."

The activist who saw my ad email me this:
FDW can use personal cellphone on weekly off days IF THERE IS NO LOAN. (quote from Winter's ad)

Restricting access to communications to an adult is a breach of the Deceleration of Human Rights. I appreciate that during working hours handphone use can be restricted but after or before work in their own personal time restricting access to communications for a DW runs contrary to their rights."

My reply:
"There are Spore companies that restrict the use of mobile phones.  This is part of the company's code of conduct.  If any employee who disagrees, he or she should not join that company and then start screaming about human rights. 

I was clear right from the start about my Code of Conduct/house rules (that is company's policies) so choice is FDW's, am I right?  No FDW was forced to join my house nor told about such Code of Conduct after joining.

BTW, MOM did not issue any guidelines about FDW's scope of work nor human rights issues.  All employment terms are supposed to be discussed, agreed and arranged between agency/FDW and employer.  If I missed out any update from MOM, maybe you can provide links.
All my FDWs are not restricted to communicate with friends, no phone but still able to meet/chat with many other human beings - FDWs, men, on a DAILY basis due to her job scope."

Nov 2012 
My colleague asked me how was I, I told her I just changed a FDW and now training my new FDW who is trying to drive my blood pressure up. 

She was kind of shocked when I said one of my requirements is that my FDW must not use her personal mobile on working days.  She can only use personal mobile phone on off days or when there's a need, with prior permission.

Colleague: you shouldn't stop your maid from using her mobile phone.  She should have a phone to talk to her friends and family.  She would prefer to keep in close contact with them.
Me:            I have to stick to this requirement to ensure my helper focuses on my girl.  By having a mobile phone, she'll be distracted.  This is my requirement, I don't want to put my girl at risk, thus, not many transfer maids want to be interviewed by me when I did a walk-in to the maid hubs.
Colleague: You can let her use the phone in the night, after working hours.
Me:            My previous helper  could rest around 9 pm but she is a slow worker.  At 10 pm which is already very late, current helper is still dilly-dally, don't know why she need so much time to do certain tasks. If she spend time on her phone, eg Facebook or overseas call, she won't have enough rest if she gets hooked or chats too long.
Colleague: Not having enough rest is her problem, she should be old enough to know.  This is not a good reason to stop maid from having her phone.  This is about human rights.
Me:           Ya, I know so I made it very clear to the agency.  Don't force anybody to work in my house, the ideal helper must be willing to accept my terms.  Anyway, when my helper goes to special school with my girl, she'll have plenty of friends.  Also, there are many other maids in my neighbourhood waiting to befriend her.    
Colleague: she would prefer her own circle of friends
In my mind, M is a transfer maid, hasn't purchased a mobile phone.  Her condo ex-employer didn't give her off days.  Since she's considered fresh, her family and usual circle of friends are in Indonesia.  Is she going to spend lots of money making IDD calls or hook on Facebook via mobile plan?
Me:            ........

Another lunch colleague heard our conversation.
Colleague B:  I thought your maid is confined at home.  If she can mix with other people, then no mobile phone should be ok.
Me:                my helper takes mrt to special school on weekdays.  There's no lack of friends or companionship.
Colleague B:  Is your maid required to stay in class?
Me:                told her to stay in class to learn when school reopens but if she wants to walk out to chit-chat, I can't control because I'm not there to supervise.  I gave instruction to my helper to watch my girl, ensure she's safe and not alone, especially when outside.
Colleague:     Do you call your family when at work?
I hardly ring my husband, home or friends when I'm working.  I don't want my colleagues or bosses to hear and see me having personal calls.  I'll sms when necessary.  That's why my basic mobile phone plan is often under-untilised. 
Me:               I don't have the habit of making personal calls.
Suddenly realised maybe I should do more phone calling.  Sounds weird that I don't make frequent phone calls.

Comparing my friends and siblings, I'm the only person who is afraid and can't afford to take risks.  Their children can complain but mine can't.

They are stay-home mums or have in laws to supervise FDWs.  I don't.  My FDW is all alone with my girl.  Having a mobile phone 24/7 would mean my girl will not be her main attention.

Their FDWs have no off day but I allowed mine to have after completion of maid loan.  She's welcome to stay out of my sight during off days.  Take off day means she'll have lesser salary.

Their FDWs have no chance to go out everyday but mine can.  My FDW has to take my girl to school on weekdays independantly.

One of my friend's Indonesian FDW, worked about one year plus, spent almost S$1500 on her mobile phone on one particular month.  She was transferred out.  As an employer, she's worried about her real intention to work.  How is she going to pay her bills with a miserable salary of only S$400 per month?  Will she borrow from loanshark-FDW?  Will she steal to pay her bills or loans?  Will she sleep with men to earn when employers are not at home?  Why she need to spend so much time on her mobile, is it she's too free or too rich?  No point asking because FDW will not tell the truth.

Another friend who had a Myanmar FDW, just renewed her contract, has a mobile 24/7 and no off day.  Every weekend, that FDW has official errand to run for her employer.  While running errand, she could squeeze time to meet her boyfriend and ended up pregnant.  Her employer doesn't monitor the time she took to run errand.  This FDW is well liked, trusted by her employer and family.

My stubborn ex-maid V found time to meet boyfriends while bringing my girl to playground, school or visit market alone.   V can request to use her mobile on weekends, for around 30mins. I knew she used public pay phone to call while taking my girl out or borrowed other FDWs phone when in school.  I knew but kept quiet.

V was a married woman with one child.  Other neighbourhood FDWs and neighbours saw her hanging with men together with my girl!!  I knew all these after V left.  That was my first FDW, no off day.  Imagine with mandatory off days in 2013, what kind of open activities will FDWs be engaged in?  Singapore is a tempting place, many fascinating things and MOM treats the FDWs much better then their employers.  FDWs will not be held responsible for any irresponsible or non-life threatening actions.  Singapore is really a safe haven for errant maids.  There's no policy to protect employers' money and interest when a bad maid is hired.

Something should be done to make FDWs be responsible for their own actions so that employers are more willing to give off days, 24/7 mobile usage, high salary .....