16 Dec 2018

Put weight on maid agencies and FDWs + source countries

Putting weight on the wrong side - Employers need protection!
Regulate maid agencies and FDWs as well as source countries.  Don't treat Employers ....the salaried citizens like ATM machines.  

All Topics  (content page)
My 4th filipino FDW (JA)
Who earns lesser than FDWs?
Maid agency
Activist - fighters for migrant workers
Maid's (FDW) employers faced unfair policies
Indonesian maid (FDW)

Employment agency owner fined $8,500 for bringing in two maids aged 15 and 18, Straits Times, 6 Dec 2018
Despite knowing that maids have to be interviewed and screened upon arriving in Singapore, the owner of a maid agency here failed to do so.

As a result, AG Employment Agency's sole proprietor Sherlyn Tay, 43, ended up bringing in a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old to work as maids earlier this year. Ministry of Manpower (MOM) guidelines state that maids should be at least 23 years old.

Tay was fined $8,500 on Thursday (Dec 6) for failing to exercise due diligence in ensuring the maids she brought in met the minimum age for foreign domestic workers, despite repeated reminders from the MOM.

In June and October this year, the two teenagers approached an agent in Myanmar, named Esther, to help them find employment as maids in Singapore.  Esther took a video of each of the two, after instructing them on what they had to say in the video. Aside from declaring that they were single, Christian and not afraid of dogs, both women were told to say they were 24 years old.  However, one was in fact only 15, while the other was 18.

Esther also arranged for new passports for the two women, which contained false dates of birth. The videos were then sent to Tay, who found prospective employers for the women and proceeded with applications for them to be employed as foreign domestic workers.

The court noted that the MOM had previously sent out several messages reminding employment agencies of the minimum age for maids, and cautioning employment agencies against relying solely on the passport and educational certification of maids.

In the messages, employment agencies were reminded to conduct screenings to examine if the physical appearance, mannerisms and speech of maids reflected the age they claimed to be, and to interview them on their family history, educational history and work experience in order to verify their age.

Despite being aware of all this, Tay did not interview either of the two, instead choosing to send them immediately for medical check-ups and an orientation programme.

It was at this orientation programme that the two were suspected of being underage. They were subsequently interviewed by MOM officers. After further investigations, the ruse was exposed.  Tay pleaded guilty to two counts of breach of employment licensing conditions in court on Thursday.

Maid agency owner who brought in 13-year-old girl to work as maid, Straits Times, 12 Jul 2018
The sole proprietor of an employment agency brought in a maid from Myanmar whose passport stated that she was of the minimum age of 23, only to find out later that the girl was just 13 years old.

The teenager's real age came to light last year when she went for her finger-printing and photo image appointment at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) service centre in Bendemeer Road. It emerged that her agent was the one who had applied for her passport.

Khor Siew Tiang, 35, who owns Vista Employment Services, was given the maximum fine of $5,000 on Thursday (July 12) after admitting that she had failed to ascertain the girl's real age on July 29 last year.  She is the second offender in recent weeks to be dealt with in court for bringing in an underage maid. On June 14, Casa Employment Specialist was also fined $5,000 after pleading guilty to a similar offence.

On Thursday, MOM prosecutor Vala Muthupalaniappan told the court that Khor would usually conduct Skype interviews with maids from Indonesia before processing their applications as she could speak Bahasa Indonesia.  However, she was unable to do the same with the Myanmar national as she could not speak her language and had to rely on an agent.

The court heard that Khor had failed to conduct a basic interview with the girl on matters such as her family history and work experience to ensure that she was of the right age.  Khor Siew Tiang (left) from Vista Employment Services and a representative from Casa Employment Specialist. Khor and Casa Employment each face one charge of breaching the conditions of their agency licences.

Instead, Khor chose to solely rely on information provided in the Myanmar national's passport and biodata even though it had been stated in alerts from MOM that such sources of information were insufficient.

Ms Vala urged District Judge Adam Nakhoda to give Khor the maximum fine, adding: "The accused had totally disregarded the duties and responsibilities entrusted to her."  Khor's lawyer, Mr Nicholas Ngoh from Optimus Chambers law firm, said that his client's employment agency licence has been suspended.  Pleading for Khor to be given a fine of between $2,000 and $4,000, he said: "She has now lost her sole means of employment where she had at least 12 years of working experience."

On May 27, The Straits Times reported that as of last year, Singapore has 240,000 maids and that lately, more underage maids have been uncovered.  MOM disclosed that for every 10,000 maids who arrived in Singapore, 8.7 were sent home last year for being underage. The rate was 4.3 in 2016 and 6.4 in 2015.

Last year, the ministry punished more than 80 employment agencies for bringing in underage maids - an exponential rise from nine between 2012 and 2016.  The punishments ranged from warnings and demerit points to the suspension of their licences.  Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MOM said that since last year, it has stepped up its detection efforts and taken sterner action against such errant employment agencies.

It added that foreign domestic workers are also told at their Settling-in Programme about the minimum age requirement.   They are then given a chance to step forward if they are underage. The one-day orientation programme is for first-time maids to learn about safety precautions and living in Singapore.

An MOM spokesman said: “On detection, MOM looks out for underage foreign domestic workers at multiple touch points... such as at the Settling-in Programme and at the MOM’s Work Pass Services Centre, where staff will verify the foreign domestic worker’s particulars, including her age, against official passport details.”

Two employment agencies charged over bringing in 13-year-old maids, Straits Times, 24 May 2018
Two employment agencies were charged on Thursday (May 24) over allegedly bringing in underage maids as young as 13 years old to work in Singapore.  This is the first time employment agencies have been prosecuted under the Employment Agencies Act for underage-related offences.

According to court documents, Casa Employment Specialist and Khor Siew Tiang, 35, from Vista Employment Services, each face one charge of breaching the conditions of their agency licences by bringing into Singapore maids from Myanmar who did not meet the minimum age requirement of 23.

Both maids - Naw Hla San and Htet Htet Phyo Wai - were only 13 years old then, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement.  This came to light after investigations were conducted between June and July last year. The cases were first detected at the MOM Services Centre, and the maids disclosed their actual ages after being interviewed by MOM officers.

Both maids' applications to work here were cancelled. Khor and Casa were directed by MOM to send them home. The maids have been barred from seeking employment in Singapore.The Myanmar Embassy was also informed.

In the past three years, MOM has taken enforcement action against 98 employment agencies for failing to ensure that the maids they bring in meet the age requirement, it said in a statement - although these are the first cases of charges being brought.

The minimum age requirement for maids here was raised from 18 to 23 in 2005.  All employment agencies have a legal responsibility to ensure that the maids they bring into Singapore to work in households meet all entry requirements, an MOM spokesman said.

Employment agencies should not merely rely on information from their passports, MOM added. They should take extra steps to verify the age of maids, such as interviewing the maid to gather information on family, education and work history - to ascertain if her declared age is consistent with other information gathered - as well as assessing the maid based on her physical appearance and mannerisms.

If they suspect that they may be underage, they should stop them from being sent to households to work and should send them home.  Maids are also notified before their arrival here of Singapore's entry requirements, via an In-Principle Approval letter in their native language.

If convicted, Khor, who is a sole proprietor of Vista Employment Services, could be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to six months, or both. Casa Employment could be fined up to $5,000.  Both employment agencies have been served notices of license suspensions. Their licenses may also be revoked if they are convicted.

Related .....
Entry of underage maids remains a thorny issue, Straits Times, 3 Jul 2018
Believing her Indonesian maid to be 28, Madam Rachel Chan did not think much about her youthful appearance at first.  But a month later, Madam Chan was surprised when the helper confessed she was only 19, despite what was stated on her passport.  It was deja vu two months later, when her "23-year-old" replacement maid from another agency turned out to be 21.

The minimum age to work as a foreign maid in Singapore is 23.  Madam Chan, 29, sent both maids home, believing that she might be penalised for hiring underage maids. The nurse told The Straits Times: "I just needed someone to help care for my children and the home while I was at work."

She lost around $3,000 in fees paid. She said: "I am done with maids - what a waste of time and money."  The issue of underage maids came to light again recently after the father of Myanmar national Zin Mar Oo, who fell to her death at the Interlace condominium on June 12, said his daughter was only 20.

In response to queries about underage maids, a spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it takes a "serious view" of the issue and has adopted various measures to check that foreign domestic workers (FDWs) meet the entry requirements and to reduce the incidence of employment agencies bringing them into Singapore.

Said the spokesman: "MOM has made clear to all employment agencies that they are required to check on the age of the FDWs they bring into Singapore. These checks include interviews and examination of the passports, birth documents and educational certificates."

All new FDWs also have to attend a settling-in programme, where they will be taught entry requirements, including the age limit, said the spokesman.  MOM also checks if the agencies are up to par in its regular audits. From 2012 to last year, it has taken to task nine employment agencies that had brought in underage maids.

"Errant employment agencies which contravene these regulations face fines of up to $5,000 and six months' imprisonment. Their licence may also be revoked," said its spokesman.  The issue remains a thorny one for the MOM, which faces calls from advocacy groups to step up its enforcement and calls from agencies to lower the age restriction.

While MOM said there is a low incidence of maids not meeting the age requirement, non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) said its research suggests otherwise.

In a survey last year, TWC2 found that 16 of the Myanmar workers polled were under 23 years old on arrival in Singapore, as were 10 of the Indonesians. That was 11 percent of the 232 maids surveyed. They did not find any underage Filipino workers.

Mr John Gee, executive committee member at TWC2, said underage maids cope less well with the challenges of being domestic workers in a foreign country and are less able to stand up for their rights.

In Madam Chan's case, she recalled an incident in which she returned home to find her four young children, aged one to nine, in tears after an argument. Beside them, her first underage maid was clearly overwhelmed and was sobbing along with the children.  "It was like having another child around the house," she said.

Employment agencies told ST that they conduct checks of their own, but the rigour of these checks varies from firm to firm.  Madam Monica Leong, proprietor of Faith Employment Agency, said: "Some of the less reliable agents out there will close one eye, even if they do suspect the maid is under 23. That is why potential employers should always check the agencies' track record on the MOM website."

The main telltale sign is still the maid's appearance as documents can be unreliable or unavailable, said a spokesman for the Maids and Manpower Agency (MMA).

One Myanmar counsellor who conducts English lessons for maids said the underage ones are usually coached to lie about their ages by unscrupulous recruiters in their home countries. The ease of falsifying documents in some countries is why the age limit for maids was raised from 18 to 23 in 2005, said Centre for Domestic Employees chairman Yeo Guat Kwang.

However, this has led Singapore's FDW age limit to become one of the highest in the region. In Malaysia and Taiwan, the minimum age is 21 and 20 respectively.  Said the MMA spokesman: "Twenty-three is a bit too high and has the effect of losing good potential candidates to other countries... But overall, the intention to protect the worker is a good one."

Embassies working with MOM to nip problem of underage maids, Straits Times, 27 May 2018
The Myanmar Embassy in Singapore is aware of the problem of its underage nationals coming here to work as maids.  Its spokesman, following queries from The Sunday Times, said it is working closely with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to resolve the issue. But it was mum about what measures Myanmar has in place to address the problem of rogue recruiters who deceive underage maids to work in Singapore.

Some other embassies, when contacted, said extra measures have been put in place to ensure the underage do not come here.  Mr Jayabo Wijayasundara, head of the labour section at the Sri Lanka High Commission, said his country conducts background checks to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of the information in the maids' official documents.

The Indonesian Embassy works with MOM and the Indonesian manpower office to ensure maids who are sent home do not pay any fees to agents when they return, said a spokesman. In the last five years, the Indonesian government has also been improving the country's civil registration system to eliminate the possibility of forging documents, he added.

Non-governmental organisations, however, said there are several hindrances to successfully tackling the underage problem. Chief among them is the financial pressure, especially on first-timers, which prevent them from confessing their true age to MOM.

Some could owe recruiters back home between $2,000 and $3,000, which can amount to around six to eight months of their pay, said Ms Stephanie Chok, a case manager with the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home). "They will want to have a shot at earning money here, especially if they are already in debt."

A spokesman for Chab Dai, a Cambodian non-profit organisation, said it broadcasts the legal requirements for working abroad, such as by going on radio shows.

But many underage maids are tricked into not going to the Cambodian police, so many cases go unreported, he added. "The desire to support the family and an easy solution presented by recruitment agents can be very tempting."  They may also be deterred by threats when they return home.

"They will have very real reason to believe their recruiters will come after them and their families to obtain any money they still feel they are entitled to," said Mr John Gee, head of research at Transient Workers Count Too.

Ms Chok added that Home has encountered cases in which agents lie in wait at airports to harass maids who are sent home for their purported fees.  Yanna (not her real name), 32, an Indonesian maid working here, said it is important to educate maids about their rights. She was only 17 when she started work as a maid in Malaysia, although her passport stated she was 25. The minimum legal age for a foreign maid in Malaysia is 21.  "It was hard to handle the stress and not all employers are as patient and willing to teach you and help you adapt. Many young maids ended up running away from their employers as they can't adapt."

Two employment agencies charged over bringing in 13-year-old maids, in first such cases here, Straits Times, 24 May 2018
Two employment agencies were charged on Thursday (May 24) over allegedly bringing in underage maids as young as 13 years old to work in Singapore.  This is the first time employment agencies have been prosecuted under the Employment Agencies Act for underage-related offences.

According to court documents, Casa Employment Specialist and Khor Siew Tiang, 35, from Vista Employment Services, each face one charge of breaching the conditions of their agency licences by bringing into Singapore maids from Myanmar who did not meet the minimum age requirement of 23.

Both maids - Naw Hla San and Htet Htet Phyo Wai - were only 13 years old then, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement.  This came to light after investigations were conducted between June and July last year. The cases were first detected at the MOM Services Centre, and the maids disclosed their actual ages after being interviewed by MOM officers.

Both maids' applications to work here were cancelled. Khor and Casa were directed by MOM to send them home. The maids have been barred from seeking employment in Singapore.The Myanmar Embassy was also informed.

In the past three years, MOM has taken enforcement action against 98 employment agencies for failing to ensure that the maids they bring in meet the age requirement, it said in a statement - although these are the first cases of charges being brought.

All employment agencies have a legal responsibility to ensure that the maids they bring into Singapore to work in households meet all entry requirements, an MOM spokesman said.

Employment agencies should not merely rely on information from their passports, MOM added. They should take extra steps to verify the age of maids, such as interviewing the maid to gather information on family, education and work history - to ascertain if her declared age is consistent with other information gathered - as well as assessing the maid based on her physical appearance and mannerisms.

If they suspect that they may be underage, they should stop them from being sent to households to work and should send them home.  Maids are also notified before their arrival here of Singapore's entry requirements, via an In-Principle Approval letter in their native language.

If convicted, Khor, who is a sole proprietor of Vista Employment Services, could be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to six months, or both. Casa Employment could be fined up to $5,000.  Both employment agencies have been served notices of license suspensions. Their licenses may also be revoked if they are convicted.

Jun 2017 (extracted from Forum)
Don't ever hire maid from SG TRANSFER MAID http://www.sgtransfermaid.com/  #03-22 at Far East Shopping Centre and level 4 lucky plaza! The after sales service is horrible! I have hired 2 maids from this agency (one is due to replacement) and both maids have the same problem and have been using hp secretly when working even when she's feeding my son. One is from Indonesia and Myanmar. The boss of the agency gave us some recommendation and claimed the maid is very good, know how to cook and very hardworking and have high interest in cooking and doing housework. All is bullshit and are lies, this agency is very dishonest. Now i can finally understand why the other boss has left and set up another maid agency on his own. Myanmar one likes to use hp till very late 12am and still don't want to sleep. Whenever i scold her, she will turn her face away and no eye contact with you, like giving you attitude that she's not happy. We can either chose to send her back or proceed with transfer but we will have to pay for her lodging for 15 days which is $15 per day. After discussing with my husband, we decide to just buy a ticket and send her home to save the trouble and just in case if there's anything happen, we do not have to bear. Anyway, she is not a good worker for the next employer as she keep using her hp all day as her husband is in Singapore. And i can't believe that the agency ask me to book the air ticket myself to send her back and if i were to request them to book ticket for me, i will need to pay for service charge??? OMG what is this. Furthermore, their monthly salary for Myanmar and indonesia maids are quite high $650 per month with 2 off days. This agency is highly not recommended.

Get maids involved in ratings for agencies, Straits Times, 12 Sep 2016
The introduction of ratings for maid agencies is a welcome move ("Ratings for maid agencies now available"; last Thursday).

Employment agencies are the first point of contact for foreign domestic workers and employers.  The services the agencies render in selection, placement, orientation, training and, more importantly, in managing the expectations of the employers and foreign domestic workers, are key in determining the success of the matching.

Hence, the rating would be a useful indicator to measure the quality of service and the performance of the agencies.  It then follows that the rating needs to be accurate, and reflect feedback that is as fair as possible.  So, for a start, employers must be informed of this rating process at the point of employing the foreign domestic workers.

Second, we agree that ratings should be administered three months after the foreign domestic worker is engaged, as it gives the employer time to gauge the after-service performance of the agency.

At the same time, employers would be able to take into account the manner in which the agency has serviced their domestic helper in considering the ratings.  One area which the rating should cover is whether the agency has put in effort to ensure that the new foreign domestic workers are made aware of the different channels where they can seek help when the need arises.

Hence, for completeness, we hope that the authorities will consider involving the foreign domestic workers in the ratings, as they are also using the service of the agencies.

Over time, this rating initiative would go a long way towards helping the agencies better understand the processes and service areas needing improvement so they can level up their services to reduce the number of instances of unsuccessful matching.

Seah Seng Choon
Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast)

Ratings for maid agencies now available, Straits Times 8 Sep 2016
Would-be employers of domestic helpers can now check on the effectiveness of a maid agency, following a new rating system based on scores given to an agency by its customers.  The information can be found on the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) existing online directory of maid agencies, each of which can get star ratings of one to five, with five being the top score.

The rating system, announced in March, is part of an ongoing effort to raise industry standards. The ministry said the results will inform agencies of the specific areas they need to improve on.
The directory has about 1,455 agencies but only around 580 have received ratings since the ministry began surveying employers in June.

One reason is that ratings are published only when at least three reviews are received.  Also, employers are asked to rate the agency only three months after they have hired a domestic helper.  There were about 20,000 of them and they were asked via SMS. So far, about 10,000 have responded, a ministry spokesman told The Straits Times.

They are asked to rate agencies on four service areas - including how well the agent explained the application process, fees, service contract and maid's contract, as well as how able the agent was at finding a suitable maid.  The 20 biggest agencies - according to the number of maids placed in the past year - all scored below 4.

The new effort was welcomed by the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS) and maid employers such as Mrs Geraldine Ang, 52, deputy director for service management at a statutory board.  Said Mrs Ang: "It's a useful guide. I'd liken it to going to TripAdvisor to check on hotels."  But other factors are important too, such as how long domestic helpers stay with employers after being placed, as well as the years of experience of an agency, she added.

AEAS president K. Jayaprema said the ratings should spur the firms to do better and could be "a wake-up call" for some.  But they also add to the existing data that would-be employers have to sift through on the directory, such as retention rates, transfer rates and demerit points, she said.  "Is it going to be confusing?'' Ms Jayaprema asked. She also suggested surveying an employer immediately after a helper is hired instead of three months later, so that his views of service standards are not influenced by how well he gets along with the maid.

The agencies scoring lowest include Niraz Agency Services, VROS Employment, Faith Recruiters, Premium Management Services and Bala's Employment Agency.  Niraz's director M.L. Philomena is not overly worried about her 1.7 score, saying she has her regular customers.  "There are always some good and some bad employers. If I give in to an employer on everything she wants, I'm not being fair to the domestic helper," she added.

Mr Rengasamy Balasubramanian, owner of Bala's Employment Agency, agrees. Still, he plans to improve his agency's service to get a score beyond 2. "We will do more in explaining the contract and maid's background as well as try to help maids and employers to understand each other better," he said.

有意聘请女佣的国人将能通过人力部查雇佣代理点评, Mypaper, 22 Jun 2016

人力部今年3月宣布2项评估女佣中介的新机制,其中的“雇佣代理客户点评系统”(Employment Agency Customer Rating System)让雇主在聘请新女佣一段时间后,通过犹如餐馆星级的点评机制,为中介提供服务水平的反馈。




安利康女佣中心执行董事郑坤明受访时说,他相信新点评系统将能更有效、完善地反映出一家中介公司的好坏。 “目前,人力部网站提供如各别中介旗下女佣的留职率和女佣更换雇主的频率等资料,要雇主单凭这些资料断定中介的好坏,不太公平。新系统直接向消费者收集反馈,结果预计将更直接、更具针对性,相信能更有效地帮助准雇主做判断,并能鼓励业者了解自己有哪些不足或该加强的地方。”

刚在上个月雇用新女佣的陈宣萱(34岁,医生)还没接获评估中介的邀请。不过,她受访时表示,若收到邀请,将会参与对中介的评估。 “若调查不会花费我太长的时间,我会认真地为中介公司进行点评。我所使用的这家中介服务没给我带来什么问题,别人或许可通过参考评估结果考虑使用同一家中介。”


人力部早前也宣布,与消费者协会携手推出强制性的分级计划——信誉标志计划(Trustmark),预计将按中介旗下女佣能否留职以完成合约、雇主对女佣中介的满意程度等标准,为需要更新执照的女佣中介进行分级。  计划目前处于咨询阶段,人力部也在近期向多名雇主及中介公司发出调查问卷,询问他们有关分级计划的相关细节。


MOM: Initiatives to Raise Standards in Foreign Domestic Worker-Placing Employment Agencies, March 2016

====================== Winter: Are agencies allowed to house maids in somebody's house?  Aren't FDWs suppose to stay in boarding house?  If FDW stay with a man, below could happen.  What could most likely take place is that agency charges employer for FDW's lodging but housed FDWs in their own premises and do housework for them, using the excuse of training.  How come the mad-dog activists don't bite the recruiters?
Man, 72, posed as doctor to molest maid, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2015

A 72 year old man claimed to be a doctor, then instructed a maid to strip after a "health examination".  Chia Fook Kun later molested the 23-year-old Indonesian.  He was sentenced to one year in jail yesterday on one count of outrage of modesty, while two other charges were taken into consideration.

The court heard that Chia is a part-time driver for a maid agency. He would also put maids up at his place of residence, a flat in Jalan Minyak in the Outram area.  

On Nov 13, the victim - who cannot be named because of a gag order - was arrested because she was caught stealing from her previous employer.  Her agency arranged for Chia to bail her out and to take custody of her during investigations.  Three days later, Chia lied to the victim that he was a doctor and showed her some photos and certificates on his computer to trick her into believing him.

After "examining" her with a blood pressure device and a stethoscope, he told her she was in poor health and that he wanted to apply cream on her chest.  Chia then made her go to the bedroom and told her to remove her shirt and bra, before applying the cream on her breasts. He later unbuttoned her jeans but was interrupted by a phone call.  While he was engaged, the victim dressed herself and left. She later made a police report.

Mr Low added that the victim was vulnerable and Chia took advantage of her fear of being sent to jail because of theft. She was eventually let off with a warning.  

Winter: I don't agree with this article title.  Should re-word as "Singapore's foreign maids exploited by agents".  Agencies are the ones who cheated maids.  As the first point of contact, they are the ones who painted a overdo picture to lure maids.  Employers merely look at their bio and whatever info printed/falsified by agent then get to pay this and that.  We cannot say NO to the terms laid by agencies nor oppose the law/policies imposed by Ministry of Manpower
Singapore's foreign maids exploited by agents, employer,  Business Times, 27 May 2015
The promise of a salary five times what she could make at home prompted Nabila to leave Indonesia and her family for a job as a domestic worker in Singapore.  What she did not realise was that it would be eight months before she earned a cent because of deductions made by the employment agency that brought her to Singapore.

With a 17-hour working day that started at 5am, a "very demanding" employer and dinners that consisted of leftovers, the 30-year-old said she was driven to despair.  "I was desperate when I realised that I wouldn't get paid for such a long time," said Ms Nabila, whose monthly salary was S$560. "I came to Singapore because I need money for my two children so that they can go to school. I need every cent."

Employment agencies are part of a complex web spun across Southeast Asia by brokers and agents that allow the domestic workers virtually no say in their working conditions.  Reports of domestic workers being burned, beaten and raped have sparked outrage in Asia, which has the largest share of the world's domestic workers at more than 21 million.

The Philippines is the only Asian nation to have ratified the International Labour Organisation's convention on domestic workers, which bans recruiters from taking money from workers'wages to recoup placement fees, among other measures.  The ILO says recruitment fees should not be charged to any worker. "Despite this, charging and overcharging of recruitment fees is prevalent across the region and governments need to do more to ensure that recruitment agencies are punished when they overcharge and workers reimbursed," Max Tunon, a senior ILO project officer, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In the wealthy city state of Singapore, charging for recruitment services is not illegal but the government has put a cap on the amount local agencies can deduct at two months'salary.  Many agencies get around the law by saying they need to charge more to cover fees with agencies in Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar where most of Singapore's estimated 220,000 foreign domestic workers come from.

"It's a practice that traps women with a lot of debt and makes them endure all sorts of abuses to eventually get their salary, from emotional to physical and sometimes even sexual abuse," said Jolovan Wham of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), a charity supporting domestic workers with legal assistance, training and basic medical care.  HOME says employers withholding payment is the second most common complaint they deal with after emotional abuse.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says foreign domestic workers are fully protected by the law in the country of 5.4 million people, and errant employers and agencies are subject to scrutiny, fines and imprisonment. "Singapore has numerous measures in place to ensure the welfare and protection of foreign domestic workers here, including legal protection, education, safeguards and dedicated avenues for redress," a spokesman said in emailed comments.

At Singapore's Katong Shopping Centre, domestic workers push each other in wheelchairs, while others change nappies on dummy babies, displaying their skills in public view at one of the many "maid agencies" in the building. "It's a degrading way to put them on display, like they're a commodity," Mr Wham, HOME's executive director, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  Activists say another example of discrimination against foreign domestic workers is their exemption from Singapore's Employment Act, which regulates working conditions for locals.

Instead they are covered by a law for foreign workers that puts the onus on employers and agencies to make sure they are not exploited. "It's a 24/7 job - always on standby, no guaranteed resting hours and often no privacy," said Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, president of the Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) charity.  (Winter:  MOM stipulated FDWs to be given at least 8 hours continuous rest, daily. This person is definitely not blind or deaf but chose to behave like a handicap person.  I can't deny there are really bad black sheep employers but do you have to bite us ... the law abiding citizens/employers?  Activists enjoy bullying the unprotected employers because activists know MOM/PAP didn't setup an organsation to voice for "exploited/bullied/ill-fated" employers')

Many domestic workers still work seven days a week even though the government introduced a compulsory weekly day off for them in 2013. Employers can opt out of this by offering to pay.  Often, workers dare not say 'no' even if they only get paid an average of S$17 if they work on their day off, Ummai Ummairoh, president of the Indonesian Family Network (IFN) said. "What we really want is better protection by the law," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  (Winter:  If FDWs are so timid, dare not say No, why there are so many transfer maids around?  Why FDWs agreed to a higher salary (no off day compensation) and then turnaround claiming they are overworked, no freedom, no off day, etc... after officially onboard?  FDWs didn't say No before employer recruited them at agencies because there are no penalty for liar maids, they knew they stand to gain and likely to win because there are so many activists waiting to fight for their 'rights/misfortune', at NO COST.  Another reason is agents are fierce but employers can be bullied .... manipulated when they joined the household) 

Singapore's maids are forbidden to live away from their place of work, which for many means being on call all the time.  Some said they have to share rooms with their employer's children or elderly relatives and sleep in the hall or the living room, unable to sleep until the employer goes to bed. (Winter: I look forward to see a policy for live-out FDW to free myself from activists/FDWs wrongful accusation.  So sick of dealing with never ending demanding and discontented FDWs ... kept thinking they are not at fault.  Your main fault was to fly to Spore and become an agency's money making tool .... offered S$3400 fee to feed them) 

At HOME's shelter for domestic workers, a Filipina said she was dismissed without notice by her American employer after four months because she did not know how to cook Western food.  Still owing money to the employment agency, she now faces having her work permit cancelled and being forced to return to Mindanao, a particularly poor region of the Philippines. "I can't make enough money at home to support my kids, so I will have to go abroad again, pay all the fees again," said the 29-year-old, who declined to be named, fighting back tears.

Unlike in Hong Kong, another top Asian destination for domestic workers, those in Singapore are not allowed to form a union and must rely on informal networks and charities for help.  Ms Ummairoh is proud that the IFN and its counterpart, the Filipino Family Network, provide classes in English, computer studies, hairdressing and make-up skills.  "We hope this will help to give them some useful skills for getting better jobs, especially when they return home," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A plan by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to stop domestic workers from working abroad is unlikely to succeed unless there are better jobs available at home, said Ms Ummairoh.  "It will just lead to more women leaving illegally, which will make them even more vulnerable because they won't be documented with the authorities and have no redress if things go wrong," Ms Ummairoh said.

Fewer maids going abroad as Manila curbs biteStraits Times, 17 Aug 2015

The Philippines has sent fewer maids abroad this year in what the government says is proof that labour curbs meant to protect a sector "prone to abuses" are working.  Data released by the labour ministry showed that 55,961 went abroad from January to May, 20 per cent fewer than the 70,034 posted a year earlier. Deployment to Singapore fell from 4,853 to 3,798.  There are more than 1.5 million Filipino maids working abroad. At least 70,000 are in Singapore.

Prior to the drop, the number of Filipino maids processed for jobs outside the Philippines had more than doubled from 71,557 in 2009 to 164,396 in 2013, according to the latest available data on the website of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

The latest numbers show that Manila's "relentless" reforms to ensure maids get at least US$400 (S$562) a month without paying placement fees are working, said Labour Minister Rosalinda Baldoz.  The Philippines stopped sending its women to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in June last year after the government refused to recognise contracts guaranteeing Filipino maids the minimum pay of US$400 a month.

Only 215 Filipinas were deployed to the UAE from January to May from 13,440 a year earlier.  It was not explained how the maids made it to the UAE despite the ban. But earlier reports said there is now a thriving black market for maids in the emirates because of the Philippine ban.  Manila has been reining in on maid deployment as abuses remain a concern. Last year, photos of a 23-year-old Filipina in Saudi Arabia with burns on her back, arms and legs appeared on Facebook.

In a 2013 survey by the Mission for Migrant Workers of some 3,000 maids in Hong Kong, one in five said she has been beaten by her employers. More than half said they have been verbally abused, and 6 per cent claimed to have been molested.

Recruitment firms say the 20 per cent drop was a result of Manila's heavy-handed policies, coupled with an inept bureaucracy.  A coalition of recruiters and travel agencies earlier called for an industry-wide rally to protest against what they saw as the unreasonable implementation of rules.  Regulators had been suspending or cancelling licences without public hearings, the group said.

"Sometimes, preventive suspensions are dished out based only on a Facebook post or an unverified news report," said recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani.  The POEA has already cancelled the licences of at least 280 recruiters since 2012, he added.  Mr Geslani said glitches in passport-processing had also been a big problem. It takes a maid at least two months to get a passport, he added.

The foreign ministry has admitted that its passport backlog ballooned to 42,230, forcing it to extend expiring passports for at least a year.  Mr Geslani added that the 20 per cent drop "means over 14,000 did not get jobs and are now jobless". Central bank data shows that remittances from more than 10 million Filipinos abroad - a major economic engine for the country - dipped in January-May this year.

Remittances grew on average 5.4 per cent, compared with 6 per cent a year earlier and 7 per cent in the years after the 2008 financial crisis.

In his State of the Nation address earlier this month, President Benigno Aquino said fewer Filipinos are leaving the Philippines as robust growth under his term has been creating jobs offering competitive salaries.

MOM should curb high maid placement fees, ST forum, 3 Mar 2015
We have had successive cycles of calls by employment agencies to increase the salaries of foreign domestic workers, in order to attract them to Singapore.

Yet, each time, the placement fees of the foreign helpers would be raised as well ("Call to cap fees collected from maids"; last Thursday).  High placement fees are a disincentive for foreign domestic helpers to work in Singapore, so why is the market still repeating this vicious circle?

Such fees impact employers too, as they would usually be asked to make advance payments for the increased placement fees, without any guarantee on the quality of their new helpers.

The reduction of the maid levy is not good news to employers, as historically, this will soon be followed by an increase in maids' salaries and placement fees.  

Our trade association cannot act effectively, as membership is not mandatory. Out of the 1,000 or so employment agencies, about 350 of them are members of the trade association.

I urge the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to act on the issue of high placement fees, as free-market conditions are unable to resolve the issue.  The MOM should work with foreign embassies to benchmark the overseas portion of the placement fees and cap this amount.

Membership in the trade association should also be made compulsory for all employment agencies. 

Call to cap fees from maids, ST forum
Some maid agents are colluding with their foreign counterparts to jack up recruitment fees that foreign maids have to pay to work here.  This has resulted in foreign maids’ fees almost doubling in the last two years, said the body representing employment agencies here.

“Some maid agents in Singapore are working with foreign agents to raise fees. They want a bigger cut of the profit,” said Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS) president K. Jayaprema.  She is now pushing for the industry to cap fees that can be collected by agents here.

In 2013, foreign maids paid, on average, S$2,500 in fees. This year, the fees are about S$4,000 or about eight months of a worker’s average pay.  The fees cover commission for agents in Singapore and overseas and other costs, such as for training.

“The problem of high fees is very widespread. It is common to find domestic workers paying eight or nine months of their salary in fees. If we don’t act quickly, the fees will keep going up,” she said. Part of the reason for the rising fees is that there is little regulation and enforcement in the maids’ home countries.

In Singapore, the law states that local employment agencies cannot charge foreign workers more than two months’ salary in commission.  Jayaprema said the AEAS, which represents about 350 of some 700 active maid agencies here, is proposing to cap the total amount of fees that the agencies can collect from the maids at two months’ pay. This will stop the Singapore agents from using the excuse that the high fees mostly go into the pockets of foreign agents, the association said.

A Manpower Ministry spokesman said: “AEAS’ proposal could be initiated as an industry-led effort, given that the industry would have to work out its arrangement on the collection of the overseas agency fees with their foreign partners.”  But, the spokesman added, the ministry will fine and revoke licences of employment agencies which overcharge workers.

Maids must know right amount of fees to pay, ST Forum
The call by an association representing maid agents in Singapore to cap fees collected from foreign maids baffles me ("Call to cap fees collected from maids"; Thursday).

A better solution is to educate maids on the right amount of fees they should pay.

Placement fees are made up of different components, which may vary depending on the country of origin of the maids. The amounts may be inconsistent even in the same country and are frequently not transparent to maids, employers and the Singapore agents.

Besides local and foreign agents' commissions, these fees may also include fees of recruiters in the maids' home towns, and advances made to the maids and their families before the workers report to the foreign training centres.  A portion of the placement fee may, therefore, comprise the maids' personal debts.

The maids' home government plays a critical role in educating its nationals on the rightful amount of placement fees that should be borne by them.  This will minimise the risks of profiteering by local and foreign agents at the maids' expense.  One should bear in mind that cases of overcharging come to light only when the victim lodges a complaint. 

In the long run, it bodes well for the industry when Singapore agents are compelled to be transparent on the quantum of their service fees, without hidden components in placement fees.

Singapore employers must realise that a discontented maid is likely to prematurely terminate her contract, which, in turn, translates to unrecoverable placement fees.
Engaging a maid should be fair to all stakeholders.

Aug 2014
Everybody has a dream, so do FDWs.  We need an income, we need to improve our lives, we want to have some savings ....
FDWs dreaming of earning lots of money by coming to Spore.  They didn't 'realise' such a dream would benefit the maid agencies .... THEY ended up as commodities.  FDW could actually make $500 x 24 months = S$12,000 richer, just to be separated from their families for 2 years.... if only maid agencies didn't take away about S$3300 of their salary.  
This maid had a dream but turned out to be a nightmare.  While waiting for her case to see light, Rinonos is unpaid but she gets free lodging and food.  She cannot go home until the truth is out.

Filipino maid Analyn Rinonos, 30, spent two years, three months and two days in a Singapore shelter before she finally returned home to her two young children in March.  That was how long she waited while her complaint of being abused by her employer was investigated and taken through the legal system. In the end, her employer pleaded guilty and was jailed for a year.

Ms Rinonos received justice but little else. "I came to Singapore with a dream, but it quickly turned into a nightmare," she told The Sunday Times.  Those who complain of physical or sexual abuse face months, sometimes years, of uncertainty waiting in shelters as the police investigate cases and, where possible, take the accused to court.  There are no official figures on the number of complaints, how many reach the courts or how long each case takes to be resolved.  But figures collated by migrant help group HOME and the Indonesian and Philippine embassies, all of which run shelters for maids in distress, show that at least one report of physical or sexual abuse is lodged with the police every other day.

The Sunday Times found nearly a dozen cases of women who returned home a year to 18 months after making a report.  One waited four years.  Once a maid makes a police report, she needs the approval of the authorities to leave Singapore.  She is allowed to find a new job, but only as a maid. Many do not want to work as maids again, given what they say they have suffered.  Some cannot work because their employers do not cancel their work permits out of spite. 

HOME has also seen an increase in the number of women from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia seeking help. Indonesians and Filipinas are generally more aware of their rights and have social and embassy support networks, unlike women from some of the newer source countries for maids.  Bangladeshi maids, for instance, are relatively new in Singapore. Most do not speak English and have no idea whom to turn to for help.  Madam M. Aklima, 33, a Bangladeshi mother of two, came to work in Singapore in January, hoping to save for an eye operation for her three-year-old daughter back home.  She claimed her female employer called her lazy and would slap and abuse her every time she did not "clean the flat well".
Initial investigations could not substantiate her charges. Unable to afford being jobless for months on end, she returned home late last month.

Activists are trying to protect FDWs by asking for compensation to be made compulsory when the employer is convicted.  HOME executive director Jolovan Wham also suggested that the women be allowed to get jobs other than as maids, such as kitchen helpers. Funding for counselling and psychiatric care for those who need it would also help.

Although some of the women who allege abuse are witnesses of the state, the Government does not pay for their upkeep while they wait. That too, he hopes, will change. He said his shelter spends $400 per month on each woman.

Winter:  What about employers in distressed, facing the ordeal of an abuser-FDW, who pays them compensation, time to retrain and money to recruit another domestic helper?  Who can guarantee the next FDW will be better or not wicked?  MOM doing any screening or putting some good law in the favour of employers? 

I have posted many news about FDWs who were abusers, murderers, thieves but given very light sentences.  The greatest mock is, FDWs need not pay a cent even if convicted whereas, convicted or wrongly accused employers have to foot all the legal fees and fine, if any.  I have heard a saying, the world is round, there's no way you can measure or divide it equally with a ruler.... sounds like an excuse, right?  You and I know it is possible but does MOM/PAP?  The same ruler is not used to measure FDWs, maid agencies, source countries and employers.  To show favourtism (pro-maid, pro-agency and pro-source country), a shorter ruler is used.

Take note, I don't deny there are bad employers and such bad examples ought to be punished.  What I am asking is just fairness for those who are not too-bad, abide to law and some were managed by FDWs (tolerated for the sake for their children or elderly).

If protector/activists care so much for FDWs, why not consider live-out option at FDW's cost?

Read:  PEM Maid Employment Agency, Yvonne Phua and 13 Filipinos, believed to be trafficking and doing illegal recruitment.  Reason is cack of POEA authorization to hire and send workers to other countries.

Winter:  Maid agencies are earning a lot from FDWs and Employers.  We thought the fees we coughed out include making POEA fatter but .... some agencies were not appointed to recruit means whatever you have paid for your fresh maid, your FDW could be an illegal worker .... in the eyes of Philippines government.  What happened to you and your money when your new maid couldn't reach you as planned?  Will maid agency refund you 100%?  Dream on, stop daydreaming. Maid agencies and source countries are just keen to make easy money, they will not care about you!   If they are kind, they won't earn a lot of money from us!

Why MOM made FDWs and Employers become source countries and maid agencies' huge profit making tools?  When will MOM/PAP say NO to greedy source countries and maid agencies?

For once, Facebook maid has hit the nail .... I agree that "force the foreign agent to collect money in maid's own country, it's because I want it to be clear to the maid's family what's happening and not let the foreign agent lie to the maid's family that it is the Singapore agent greedy".  Read more Facebook maid's comments here.

If this S$1000 is cap for both Employer (includes everything - eg Spore insurance, SIP, admin fee, pre-employment medical cost, work permit, etc) and FDW (flight, admin work, training), I feel we're not feeding the greedy agencies.  Agencies deserved to be paid for their services but should not multiple their actual costs by 3 or 5 times.  Anybody with access to MOM website and budget airline websites knows the costs.  The only 'hidden cost' is fake/unsuitable training at source country.  This training cost should be eliminated.  Give employer the option to have a source country trained maid, trained in Spore agency or trained at Employer's house.  Personally, I trust my own training - more relevant to my house and daughter's needs.

To be fair to both FDW and Employer, a check list should be used together with a job requirement.  Both parties must sign after agent has gone through both parties' requirements, followed by local contract and payment.  This is to clamp down on agency trying to 'market' FDWs who don't fit our needs but were persuaded to TRY.  By trying, both FDW and Employer will enable agency earn another/many rounds of agency fee - transfer!  Any FDW who has high expectations and wasn't suitable for employer should be repatriated home by maid agency.  Maid agency wanted to earn easy money in the form of transfer/recycling should be fined.  Any unrealistic FDW (demanding) who are left on the shelf for 21 days will have to pay for her own recruitment costs, including go home if nobody dares to hire her.  Don't make employers be ATM machines.  Don't allow princess attitude or poor quality FDWs to work in Spore and sponge on Employers.  We need helpers, not paid high fees to babysit a live-in adult or 'adopt' a daughter!

If FDW are allowed to try working in prospective employer's house for 3 to 7 days without paying all the upfront fees, it will be better.  Using a 3 to 7 days trial, Employer can assess the FDW and FDW can see the real working environment that FDW has to commit for 24 months.  Both parties must be truthful.  Employer shouldn't hide or show a 'discounted work scenario'.  During trial period, FDW should write down what she has done, what time she wakes up, eats what, what time she sleeps, etc.  Similarly for Employer, to record daily tasks assigned and FDW's rating for that task performed, time taken to complete, able to understand instruction, forgetful, etc.  A copy of this record shall be filed by maid agency in order to determine who broke the contract, who had been the one to ruin a relationship and bear the consequences.... through this method, FDW has no excuse to say she's a slave or she wasn't given a good employer.

During trial period, FDW to get pro-rated salary.  FDW's insurance should be in her name, whereby she'll finance from the day she steps into Spore and ends on the day she leaves.  The monthly insurance premium, benefits and terms will remain, regardless how many employers maid has been transferred.  This will reduce the admin work and chances for insurance company to make profit from short term FDW.

Trial may not be accurate because each household is different and the way Employer wants to run his/her household is different too.  Briefing of tasks are 'superficial' because the FDW is not trained for that house but better than not given a chance for them to live together, have a feel ..... try what's life living on high floors, hygiene level of FDW, etc.

When I set up this blog, I've email MOM this (before mandatory off day was announced):

How can employers retain the services of experienced maids? Would scrapping the maid levy and implementing a minimum wage scheme help?
Retain experienced maids by scrapping levy, Straits times, 18 Jul 2014
Why are experienced maids attracted to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan, with Singapore being among their least preferred destinations?

And why do we hear more accounts of maids in Singapore terminating their two-year contracts prematurely ("Call to cap maid recruitment fee paid by employers"; yesterday)?

Clearly, our maid industry needs a revamp.
Many maids prefer to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan because they can earn much higher wages in these places, where the levy is minimal or absent.

Those who have worked in Singapore and completed their two-year contracts are highly sought after in these places.

The Manpower Ministry should consider scrapping the maid levy, so that the tax currently paid by employers can form part of the maid's monthly wages.  It could also consider initiating a fair minimum wage scheme for maids, to attract the more experienced ones to come here.

Facebook comments:
Clarice Viola Pereira:  I think employers have to learn to give and take and same as the maid. Scrapping the maid levy so we can pay them more will help as they will feel motivated to work.

Luffy Cat:  I feel, the levy is unnecessary. It would be better for employers to send their maids (who are usually caregivers for our loved ones) for trainings/workshops, eg. elder care or infant care. That way, we are assured the maids are competent and the maids also can have a sense of fulfilment at their jobs, that they are given opportunities for professional development. That way, both parties may find a rewarding working relationship that just might add value to the job. And of course, minimum wage is a must.

Hardi Zuko: Scrap the levy as it is taxing the employer. Employer then can give higher pay to their helper. And higher pay can help motivates them. Also to all employers I seek your understanding, your helper are making a big sacrifice leaving their country & love ones to seek better opportunity. Do treat them as you'll like to be treated. They are also human like you & me. Treat them like how you'll treat another family member & remember whether you'll like it or not they are also part of your family. If they are happy working in a safe environment I'm sure your home & family are well taken care off. Sorry just my 2cents worth.

Jocelyn Horigan: dear employer's do it yourself so that you don't get headache rather than complaining so much for their levy does it.

Lim Jong: Govt sucks from every employee, levy, screening fee, license fee for a job, we all have PAP , Pay And Pay govt.

Runner Hunter: Summary:
Changed at least 3 maids until I find a good indo helper recently. Went thru many stress during the changes. Engaging maid not meant for luxury. It's to lighten work load, help to take care the baby and old folk. Maid attitude change a lot nowadays. MOM imposed many policies to curb employer. Certain policies is not fair. MOM always sided the maid and they can't do anything if the maid went errornous. Seek help and discussed with MOM our plight but cant do anything esp the maid didn't fulfill their 2 years contract and went back to agency or their country. Employer have to paid for new maid and it's very expensive. Not all problem lies on employer but the maids quality are very very bad. Given off day and find bf or work part time. Get influence so easily that they changed attitude and sometime knows how to "kain". Maids went thru check up but wo spotted them pregnant. MOM charge you levy and gov wanted you to have more baby. They also wanted all parent and old folks to work so nobody at home to take care the infant and children. 1 minister tell you not to engage maid just like him but never realise that we commoner are not as rich as him. Btw maybe this minister can survey how many minister or MP can be like him going wo maid? Gov didn't know the cost of living is high so more parent needs to work to survive. Wanted you to spend quality time with kid but wanted you to settle the chore, heavy school work, cooking and play together in 1 or 2 days per week? This is the type of relentlessly tiring lifestyle we Singaporean are having? Poor Singaporean.

Michelle Lau: I believe that increasing the FDW's remuneration would contribute greatly to our efforts as employees to retain them. I would propose a reduction in the amount of the maid levy and perhaps converting it to a semi-annual or annual payment. This would also help to reduce the associated administrative costs for the MOM (a side benefit). The savings from the reduction in the levy would give employers more bandwidth to increase the FDW's monthly salary and bonuses.

Cheng Liew: Stop protecting the FDW. Think for us- employers! Stop the numbers of transfers knowable to max 2 times upon arrival and problems will be solved. Nothing to do with levy! The amount we pay to FDW now is already a huge pay package when it is converted to their currencies.

Qubeley Tan: Haiz. So many people are calling for homes to do without maids, I wonder how much does the Philippines economy depend on maids working overseas?

Gutierrez Bobot:Y singling out Philippines? Singapore isn't d only country in d world tht we..filipinos can make out a living! We hve values n perseverant n dedicated to a job..ths why we're in demand in any skills..n were proficient in english languange too,,!

Faith Sudharman-Chan: Channel the maid levy to their pay. At the moment employers already bleeding from paying for all the fees & paperwork

Call to cap maid recruitment fee paid by employers, The Straits Times
The biggest maid agent association here has submitted a proposal to the Government to cap the fees that employers pay on behalf of their maids, to stop agents from jacking up fees.  The Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS) is calling for this fee - which can be as high as $4,000 - to be capped at around $1,000 instead.

As maids usually cannot afford the fee, employers "lend" them the money, getting the money back through deductions from the maids' salaries. The women can thus go without pay for up to nine months or take home as little as $10 to $20 each month.

The high fees have caused maids to run away. Bosses suffer too, said Ms K. Jayaprema, president of the AEAS, who sent the proposal to the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on Monday.  Some employers do not get any refund for the money they pay on behalf of the maids when the women quit. "There are contracts which state that employers will not get any money back if their maid is transferred to a new boss within two or three months," she said.

Under current legislation, maid agents here can charge workers recruitment fees of only up to two months of their salaries - maids earn about $500 a month.  But some Singapore agents collude with overseas recruiters to collect more than what is allowed here, said Ms Jayaprema. The proposal aims to improve the current law by spelling out that employers should not pay more than a certain sum to agents on behalf of maids.
A lack of records also makes the current rule hard to enforce.

"Some Singapore agents are earning four or more months of the maids' salaries," said Ms Jayaprema. "But we can't prove it because the money goes into overseas bank accounts or there is no paper trail," she said.
But this can be addressed if maids take loans from foreign banks and pay monthly. "MOM will be able to see how much the maids are paying and to whom," she added.

The AEAS suggests that the MOM work with foreign countries to set up loan schemes with overseas financial institutions.  When contacted, the MOM said it is reviewing the recommendations by the AEAS and that it takes a strong stance against maids being overcharged in fees. In the past two years, 10 agents were each fined $2,500 or $3,000 for charging excessive fees.

Maid agents interviewed by The Straits Times welcomed the proposal but said that, if it is adopted, employers will likely have to pay a higher service fee to maid agents. This may rise from around $400 to $1,000 now to about $2,000.  "Right now, maid agents are passing on most of the cost to the maids and charging employers low fees. They will have to balance the cost out more," said Ms Shirley Ng, owner of Orange Employment Agency.

Written by Eugene Lim, TRS reader 

I refer to the article by Ms Choo here: EMPLOYERS OF MAIDS ALSO NEED PROTECTION

I believe that many of the readers understand your plight and the issue of protection against employers has been lobbying around administration of government without any result for many years.

There are many underlining problem pertaining to this issue that your local agencies just can’t put to words and government agencies unwilling or simply refuses to address them. Hence allow me to explain to you and all the other reader the hindrance that government of employing countries that they face, which includes our Singapore government.

1.       Double Standard - Philippines
Maids from Philippines to overseas are deployed under their Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA). Which means the employer must pay a minimum wages of USD$400 per month with a day off each week. With the success of these deployments to Hong Kong (Maid), Taiwan (Maid) and Japan (Prostitutes), the Philippine government had been aggressively marketing this concept to all other countries and in many ways forcing them with an ultimatum. The POEA was market under the cover of human right protection to the workers and they promote those few countries as a showcase as an example for other countries to follow. However, they conveniently forgot to inform all the countries they pushing to implement the POEA, is that these workers going to these “prime” countries will have to pay for all expenses. All expenses includes air-ticket, medical examination, training, agency fee in the Philippines, government administration fees, tax, interest and commission for the agencies from the employer’s country.  Hence, employers are not required to pay anything to get the workers. Hong Kong would cost the workers about $3,000, Taiwan would cost them about RM3,550 and Japan a whopping $7,400.

Philippines had been playing double standard towards all other countries and lying to all the government they push, with a face palm. Which means the cost of deployment would be force solely on to employers. While the workers still would have to pay something but not pay such a hefty sum. This is also the main reason why Singapore government refuses to co-cooperate on the POEA and they find it extremely unfair toward Singaporean and employer of this double standard. In fact, majority of the countries do not support POEA, many countries would advise the worker to travel to their country under social visit so these workers do not have to pay bondage.

2.       Indonesia
Majority of the cost of deployment is not the cost of maid but the cost of acquiring such bio-data. The system in Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia is somewhat the same, since these market were all established by Malaysian and Singaporean agencies for their countrymen.

Each local agency in Indonesia will pay a middle man that is task for a selected region. The middle-man would than task it to individual that would travel, kampong to kampong. Once these maids are collected, the main hub agency would then throw in a $500 cash given to the maid’s family and another $1,500 per maid as their profit.

As you can see, the cost of deployment is mainly due to the cost of agencies in their country. These countries enjoy their GDP with the deployment of these maids. Without a proper tax system, this is the only viable way their country can make money from their citizens. So how to protect workers when the maid was not the actual individual that results in such cost, it is all the middle-man and agencies that are owned by cronies are making the kill.

We must not forget that local agencies in Singapore face one bigger problems when comes to acquire maids. Many overseas agencies are indebted financially to local agencies. It is expected that sooner or later these debt will be written off. So local agencies would have to put that “future debt” in to consideration which means increase cost for employer. Understand there is no legal avenue that provides assurance to local agency being able to collect such debt. This is part of the problem, part of the cost and agencies perform as middle-man, they would not be place in a position to bare all risk. Local agency earn about mere $800 per maid. They will also have to bare cost of return maid whom is unfit or fail the Singapore test.

So the answer to your question whether the government or authorities can do anything to protect employers, well………there is nothing. My only suggestion is to employ local Care-Taker or nurse, if looking after your disable father is the main reasons because if you would average the cost out, it might be even cheaper in the long run. Many employers had that pre-text but they actually need the maid more for housework, cooking and other stuff, that is why they feel they can’t employ nurse or caretaker.

Hope that helps you understands.

Foreign Manpower issues - Maid agents get 'dos and don'ts' about marketing maidsThe Straits TimesWednesday, 16 Jul 2014

Rohim:  There was a time when Malaysia and Indonesia banned the sale of sand to Singapore creating quite a problem to the construction industry. Costs of land kept increasing and many companies producing precast concrete elements shifted production to Malaysia and there is also a precast plant in Batam.

HDB also saves costs in supervision. HDB did not employ foreigners but assigned the job of supplying technical officers to private consultant firms. These firms bid and the lowest bidder gets. To maintain profitability, most of the technical officers assigned to ensure the quality of our flats are foreigners mostly, Indian nationals, and only a handful of Singaporeans and Malaysians who happen to live in Johore

So most of our building parts are built in foreign land, supervised by foreigners to save costs. Less Singaporeans are employed but Singaporeans are paying more for homes

Foreigners are taking Singaporeans' jobs not only in Singapore but even overseas. Perhaps our ministers must also comprise of foreign talent to "SAVE COSTS".  After all, we do not need scholars to tell us that raising taxes and raising housing costs will enrich the government.

Janvier Lee:  FWs save cost. But the government have reduced the quota to make it a higher cost for business, who transfer the cost to us as consumers.

FTs are expensive because their salary is at least 20- 300% more than us for the same things we do. Yet, the government have not removed at least 15% of the FTs for the past 3 years.

Li Li:  The government must be aware that it is now very difficult for an older worker to get a PMET job, including those retirees who want to seek re-employment, but do not mind the salary.

It is perfectly alright to allow foreigners to fill out those jobs that our citizens do not have skills or manpower in short supply, but we should not give those jobs to foreigners where there is a large group of local citizens who have the skills and could not find a job.

I hope that the government would listen, care to make the differentiation and not allow foreigners to be employed and citizens to be jobless.

Winter:  When source countries are demanding and PAP/MOM is fond of giving in, it just makes me feel PAP/MOM is not only pro-maid, it is pro-source country and pro-agency.  Low to middle income Citizens are not treated like humans, we are more like ATM machines and decision makers do not care how much its policies are 'damaging' us.  

An Indian FT cum FDW's employer posted an advice to FDW via Facebook...
"SALARY RANGE: Never mention fixed amount, but mention a wide range
If they ask for salary, and your expectation is $600 and always say "I am expecting $600 to $800" and let employer decide, YOU WILL BE SURPRISED THAT A LOT OF EMPLOYER WILL OFFER MORE THAN YOUR EXPECTATIONS e.g. offer many employer $700 or $800. If an employer offers less than Sg$600, then let them know that it is a LEGAL REQUIREMENT by Pinas/Indonesian embassy to have min monthly salary of US$400 = Sg$600 and your contract must be authenticated/stamped/endorsed by your embassy and let employer know that embassy will not stamp the contract if salary is below MINIMUM MANDATED level."

Winter:  In Spore, only expat offers ridiculous salary such as $700 or $800 per month.  Expats are rich, paid few times more than locals and able to use their money to spoil the FDW's market.  US$400 is equivalent to S$499, not S$600.  Go online to use latest currency converter or visit any bank/forex exchange to see who is trying to sow discord.  Please don't be dumb and be mislead by people who are oblivious.  Your greediness will result in a sour relationship between yourself and your not-too-bad employer.  Others are smiling at your stupidity.  If you end up leaving your current employer and need to find a new one, both you and employer have to pay agency fee to find a new relationship.  You'll cry if you land in the house of a bad employer!  Your friends and activists are not going to minimise your losses or 'polish your bad luck'. 

Indian FT, MJ further commented "Be flexible, dont be shy to ask or negotiate. Negotiation is all about trading offers until both parties mutually agree. Do not accept the offer, if you are not happy. If they offer lower salary then ask more off days including public holidays and extended hours, give n take.
Remember, MONEY IS A RELATIVE THING. RICHNESS IS A RELATIVE THING. Asking for $100 or $200 may seem too much but it is NOT too much for an employer who is earning $5000 (local employers) or expat/local employers who may be earning $10,000 (lower income) or even $20,000 (reasonable) or $30,000 to $40,000 (people working as Director or VP for large multinational) a month. And, all these bosses get all SAT & SUN, PUBLIC HOLIDAY pluS 10 to 20 working days off every year from their own employer, so deep in their heart they know what you are asking for a very reasonable. An employer has to be truly a moronic idiot to think you deserve less humane treatment."

Winter:  Goodness, $5000!  I wish I have such salary. If hubby earns this, I don't need to employ FDW .... I can happily 'retire' and stay home.  Sad to say, I don't earn this amount ... still far far away.  Only expat/foreign talents earn S$5000 to $20,000 per month.  If my FDW ask for $100 increment which is 23% pay hike, I'll tell her to pack and get lost!  

PAP/MOM, tell me a reason or cook up another excuse to say citizens are earning enough and FTs didn't take up our 'unwanted jobs' at low pay Tell us you didn't have policies that overpaid the Foreigners and made them think that citizens are mostly earning from S$5000, not from S$800 each month.  (read - "National Wages Council (NWC) is pressing for a salary rise for low-wage workers for the third year in a row is signal that not enough has been done. The council's persistence attests to the tenacity with which it is seeking to alleviate the plight of the least-privileged workers. If employers accept the NWC's guidelines, workers earning below $1,000 a month could expect a pay hike of at least $60")

When source country such as Philippines used their authentic Domestic Worker contract and created a 2 contract situation in Spore, MOM didn't stop it.  

The Filipinos and Indonesians are displaying their 'invisible national flag' by having its own contract and employment terms in Spore.  (read)  Philippines Embassy claimed this authentic contract is meant to protect the OEC holders .... MOM/AEAS/CASE standard contract is already very protective towards FDWs, why source country so demanding?  If source country can offer similar terms that Spore is offering, tell your citizens to vacate this little red dot!  Don't whine and claim the domestic helpers here are underpaid or overworked!  

Copied from MJ's Facebook.  Sorry no hyperlink or print screen as images take up too much memory.  

She E. Fajardo:  I just want to share this feedback from MOM regarding for my salary deduction. And I already discuss it to sir jat a couple of month ago if I'm not mistaken. I went here as a tourist visa and through an agent here in Singapore. So my agency charged me 3870$ which I need to pay for 7 mos. Plus 160$ on my 8th mos. My salary is 480$ plus 50$ for my off day working. So I call and ask to MOM if there is any legal action that I can do to stop or just to lessen my salary deduction. And they told me that they are not in control about the commission that the agency will charging to the fdw. And I tried again to send a feedback to the MOM through an email and this is what MOM replied"
Employment agencies in Singapore may only charge a foreign employee up to 2 months of their salary. However, a foreign domestic worker(FDW) would usually need to take up a loan to pay for expenses in their country related to their employment in Singapore. As the FDW is unable to afford the cost of loans, the employer will usually pay upfront for the FDW's loans and the domestic worker will repay the employer. You might like to clarify with your agent for more information on this matter."

This is really unfair right? Because all I know, employer must pay all the expenses to hire a maid.

Mahal Jat:  If you did not sign any loan papers then you can reply to MOM to complain and ask them to register a formal complaint against the agency to investigate your claim.

Maricar Lacasandile: if the agency deduct her expenses in her country 7mos salary deduction is too much.

Mitch M. Pasaway: Before your employer will bring you home the agent will discussed you about this salary loan or salary deduction which your employer will deduct it from your monthly salary, and they even asked both of you to signed on it, employer and you,so you cannot make complaint anymore as you signed on it that shows that you understand and agreed on it,but the agents charge you too much,i've heard this kinds of deduction from you only.
As mom advised to you sis you can try to ask your agents but I don't think they will give you right answer maybe you just get scolded from them hehehe you know some agency if you already paid your salary loans they just ignored you.

She E. Fajardo: Yeah I know. But I'm just working here for only 4 mos. So maybe I will try to call again to the MOM and give some alert regarding this matter. Jeje. Try and try

Mitch M. Pasaway: My only advice to you sis don't just anyhow complain to mom without proper evidences or else you may lead yourself in jail, they gave their feedback already, so why you wanna call them again and ask for the same question or inquiries? Mom got a lots of things to do also.

Princess Khate Fabillar:  we are in same sitiution miss....
but i never do ask or claim to them coz im a first timer....
i never do sign anything except the contract paper...n agent told me that she will deduct 7months salary for processing of the paper n the plane ticket since i come here as tourist....i tot we are same agency;stricker agency, im i right?????

Mitch M. Pasaway: Yes that is the contract paper Sis which stated your salary loan and payment agreement that montly deducted from your salary.

Princess Khate Fabillar: ohhhhh i see...but she never allow me to read it thas y i dont know...hehehe

Mitch M. Pasaway: Hahaha is it Sis?why they never allow you to read it? They should let the applicants read it first before sign it and if they forget to tell we can ask them if we can read what is the contents to make it sure we understand it before we sign.

Tina Pai: MOM says 2months salary deduction only... That's too much i think... And they have the control about it as what i have learn during our seminar..., right????
I am a first timer also... I have 2 months salary deduction plus $110 the third month... I have finished my salary deduction already and having my full salary monthly... Have you attended MOM seminar?

She E. Fajardo: Dats y I wonder y MOM can't do anything for this practices of agencies..

Tina Pai: They were right actually sis if you have agency in philippines... But you only got the agency here, right???? So it must be 2months only because that's under their law... As far as i know, that law is applicable here in Singapore agency...and if you have agency in Phil. that requires you that big amount of deduction, they can't do anything about it... Have you told them that you came as a tourist here?

Rowena Tabula: Mostly.. agency wont allow the fdw to read their contract they just ask u to sign it..just like me before..im a 1st tymer here also 1yr..n i pay 2500..bcoz its my 1stym im just following the flow of the river hehe its good my current employer is good..!agencies dont care the fdw's feeling as long as they can get money from you...!sorry to say this but its true..!tsk..tsk..!

Tina Pai: .. And all you want now is to stop your sAlary deduction, right? I feel pity for you and i wanted to help you because i do understand what you feel now sis... And i knew how difficult life is going on back home... Just pray and do some actions as well...

She E. Fajardo: Thank u. Yeah I just want to stop it, but how? Actually my employer have tried to talk to the MOM and ask my status but we got the same answer from MOM. So I don't think there will still a remedy for it.

Shen Rajshen: The only remedy is to file a NLRC claim against your sg.agency and pinas agency. If your employer will cooperate ask them to register you for POEA and OWWA for record's via Phil. Embassy inquire about your issue. Not in MOM since you came as tourist and not worker.

Mahal Jat: sorry po, been bit busy, Inbox me tomorrow, I will help you in drafting a good response to MOM that puts the ball in their court and we will CC that email to Minister of MOM, PM of Sg, President of Pinas and Under Secretary of POEA he he he.  (Winter:  MJ is the owner of this Facebook page.  He proclaimed himself as an Indian expat employer.. means foreign talent)

Shen Rajshen: If an agent teach and escort you what you have to do. Your case is a kind of human trafficking. And you can file a complain against that agent and I'm your agent is not alone to do your paper. Report it at Phil.embassy for record and file a.complain.

Winter:  My FDWs said the same thing, maid agencies did not translate nor allow them to read the Spore contract before signing.  When I told them about the home leave, off day and accommodation practice, they gave me the look like I was lying or that was the first time they came to know about such employment terms.  Since FDWs have so much time sitting in the agencies, how come they were not given the chance to read thoroughly and ask questions before signing... before they are interviewed?  Why it becomes employer's fault for not keeping FDW aware?  

It is maid agencies' duty to explain and translate the content of the local contract to FDWs.  I know maid agencies just want to get things done fast ... I wasn't allowed to read the contract slowly .... agent gave me the impatient look or 'gently reminded' me where to 'jump over' and sign.

Read: Pay more maid agency fee
Facebook - Net savvy maid
Maid terminated contract without any penalty
Do you really need to employ a maid?
Who earns lesser than FDWs?

Employers' top three peeves about their maids, Mypaper, 16 June 2014
Bringing boyfriends home, stealing and hitting the children are the top three complaints employers make about their maids, major agencies here told The Straits Times.

These complaints are lodged with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which receives an average of about 200 complaints a month, a spokesman said yesterday, in response to queries.

The figure represents less than 0.1 per cent of the 214,500 maids here as of December, MOM said.  The ministry has been collecting feedback on maids since 2010 to help employers make more informed hiring decisions.

Complaints against a maid may be flagged to prospective employers when they apply for a work pass for a maid on the MOM online work-permit system.  They have to sign a letter to confirm that they know of the complaint if they decide to hire the maid.

Prospective employers will not be told the nature of the complaint, but can call the maid's previous boss for details. About half of them leave phone numbers.  

Agents say most maids with a complaint against them are not hired here again. Orange Employment agency owner Shirley Ng said: "They won't get a second chance to work in Singapore."  Best Home Employment agency owner Tay Khoon Beng said: "Most employers won't even call the previous employer to find out more. They just say no."

Employment agencies must do more to improve quality of maids, training
16 April 2014, TODAY Voices

I agree with the letter “Maid agencies must ensure maids are fit to work here” (April 15) and would add that they must make sure the maids are a good match with employers.

Regrettably, agencies are not doing much besides adding costs to maid employment. For example, for the S$1,000 fee I have paid to one agency, the training provided is sub-standard. Employment agencies represent the first point of contact with the maids for employers, but are hardly involved in the interview or matching process. They earn fees by rubber-stamping the employment process.

Not only has the quality of maids we are getting deteriorated, agencies have also reduced the replacement guarantee period from 12 months to six. They should be representing the interests of employers.

No one represents the employers, who face all the negative consequences of employing maids. The Ministry of Manpower should make employment agencies work for their fees and be responsible in their dealings.

Maid agencies must ensure maids are fit to work here, TODAY, 15 April 2014
I read with disappointment and sadness that a foreign domestic worker has been charged with the murder of her employer. (“Parents of maid charged with murder to travel to S’pore to assist in probe”; April 11)

Maid agencies in Singapore have a duty to ensure that all maids are physically and mentally fit, as well as trained, before they work here. Their ages should also be verified as there have been reports of maids who are younger than the age stated in their passport.

If not, more of such crimes would surely recur.

Give more protection to maid employers, ST Forum, Jan 2013

While various regulations have been imposed on employers to protect maids, the same has not been done to help and protect the bosses ("MOM tightens rules on maid changes"; Jan 4).

The quality of maids in Singapore has deteriorated over the years.
Maids and agents provide inaccurate information in their biodata to make the maids seem more attractive to employers. Also, training by agencies is not regulated and standards are inconsistent.
Maids often do not have the skills they claim to have, and are not mentally prepared for the job.

And employers do not have an independent way of verifying the information received from maid agencies, especially when it relates to foreign embassies' requirements.
Employers are often left with little choice but to either stick with the maid, even if she is not up to standard, or go through the hassle of finding a replacement.

With more maids coming from rural and undeveloped parts of their countries, the Manpower Ministry and maid agencies have to play a bigger part to ensure the quality of maids.
Maid levies, which leave employers with less room to pay higher salaries, should be abolished. Training needs to be regulated and a proper grading system put in place.
A centralised website and database should also be set up so employers can check on the regulations implemented by foreign embassies, as well as verify the maids' biodata. Information on transfer maids should also be recorded.

Employers should be given avenues for recourse when maids misrepresent themselves, including the right to seek a full refund for amounts paid when no replacement maid is suitable.

Lim Wan Keng (Ms)

Middleman's cosy advantage: Hold agencies liable for maid failures too, ST Forum, Oct 2012
Having been through no less than five maid agencies myself in the last one year, I fully agree with Madam Rosamund Loh's observation that maid agencies think their duty to employers ends once they have secured them a maid ("Rules favour errant maids and penalise employers"; Tuesday).

The reason for this is the financial gain they stand to make when a maid does not pan out. Not only do they receive fresh placement fees from the employer, if these have not been built into the agency agreement, but they also receive a fee from the maid again. This is because every time a maid seeks a new job, she has to pay a fee to the agency. This ranges from $500 to a few months' salary.

One maid I talked to had already paid her agency $1,500 for the three jobs she had been placed in over six months. Each time, she was required to take care of an infant by her employers, for which she had no experience or skills.

The Ministry of Manpower must introduce a rule requiring agencies to bear the cost of finding both employers and maids at least three fresh matches for the first six months.
This will ensure that agencies take the pains to find out the abilities of the maid and the needs of the household fully before making a placement.

Maid agencies need to earn their money fairly and not see themselves as fast revenue generators.

Myrna Thomas (Ms)

Rules favour errant maids and penalise employers,  ST Forum
 I DO not understand why employers must bear responsibility for the folly of maids ('Stop them from running away for trivial reasons' by Mrs Padmini Kesavapany, and 'Hiking maids' pay unfair, misleading' by Ms Alice Cheah; both Feb 24).

If maids run away because of homesickness, loss of interest in work or their heavy workload, employers have to go through the frustrating process of hiring another maid and risk losing the security bond. What is worse is employers have to pay for their workers' airfare home, even if they had worked for only a day. If the maids were to get pregnant and have to be repatriated, their employers must also bear the costs. I am sure many employers share the sentiment that maid agencies do not really care about their welfare and that their duty to them ends when they have secured them maids. Maids can ask for transfers and employers are made to pay.

Facebook Comments:
* completely agree with this. The maids are too protected by the govt, until the employers are liable for whatever their mistake is.  The govt needs to relook into this issue again, at least to have an even ground for the employers and the maids.

* Yes, i agree very much... employers of FDW has been taken for granted for quite awhile...

* The maids are over protected until they abuse the system and take advantage of the employers. They should use the same law as other work permit holders. Employers should not be liable for their employees' actions. Once this is done, employers will gladly give them off days. It's becoZ the employers are made liable for everything and anything abt their maids, that's why they control their maids so much.

* It's damn unfair to us employers. The agencies charge exhorbitant fees and raise the so called min wages but do not make the effort to give quality maids.

* Govt is over protecting the maid, yeah, there are good ones but what about the bad ones? I think that govt should allow employer to withold 3 months of the maid salary in case things like this happens & return the salary when the 2 yrs contract ends. Some maids come here for other motives. And since maid agencies charge 7 months salary, shouldn't they bear 50% of the cost for transfer or air ticket? Govt should be stricter with maid agencies too on ensuring quality maid are supplied.

* The bad maids do not know how to cook fairly well, no learning spirits, demand increase in wages when they saw the news despite being so beyond terrible in work & etc etc.  My family would gladly pay well for a decent maid.  If you suck at work, you should improve at it.  Besides the bad maids are spreading rumors about their employers to the new maids.

* Very simple - like any employer/employee working relationship, if you good, company will not sack you. If your performance bad, you have to go without compensation. Co. do not pay you air ticket to go home( not to mention a mrt fare on your last day!!!) so why should employer bare all the cost when the maid pewrformance is BAD!???
My experience is my maid brought home her Bangladesh boyfriend when I'm not around...is this acceptable? I later found out the the reason she came to work here is to be with her BF which she known from previously working here. Then I have to pay her air fare, lose on insurance & pay maid agency fee again to get a new maid! NOT FAIR AT ALL!!! but if employer allowed to withold 3 months salary, all these will be paid for.

Extracted from here. by Mummy May 
23 July - I feel relieved. Really. After 7 months of being with the first helper, Emily and 2 weeks with the second helper, Michelle, I am maid-less for the first time. The feeling is liberating. At least for the next 4 days before the 3rd helper arrives.

Having a helper is like having an extra pair of hands at home. It is useful when the kids poop or when they vomit. At the same time, you have to deal with living with a stranger in your house-having manage her habits and behaviour.

The first day when we brought Emily back home, I could not sleep that night. I tossed and turned in bed. My heart could not rest. All I could think of was that there was a stranger at home. It was a weird and uncomfortable feeling. Over the weeks and months, we got used to her presence and appreciated having the help- doing the dishes, ironing the many work clothes. Emily was competent but she also had her moods. Towards the end of our second month, she wanted out, claiming that she could not manage handling two kids. I did not ask her to stay as I did not like her inconsistent temperament- I could never tell if she was in a good mood or not. She also had weekly headaches/migraines. The first few weeks when she was with us, she actually requested to take afternoon naps. Family members who did not need to face her most of the time would think that she was a good helper. However, to the people interacted with her 90% the time, they will know other wise. At the end of her 7th month, she left.

Her replacement was Michelle, a 26 year old lady. When I interviewed her over the phone, she sounded polite. It was a relatively positive impression. She agreed on my no-handphone terms and I naively thought it was because she was very simple village-type of girl. I checked with her and her resume, she was able to cook, clean and wash. To my horror, she fell way below my expectations. She could not cook at all. Her cleaning was terrible- like she used the same one cloth to clean everything. Her ironing was equally bad. The shirts that she ironed often have lines and creases. In fact, when we picked her up from the agency, her fake Louis Vuitton bag should be a dead give-away. Her actions indicated that she knew nothing about household chores. I actually saw her washing the toilet bowl with the brush while there were toilet paper in it!

After training her for first two days, I cried to E. She was sloth slow- like incredibly slow in doing any sort of household chore. Despite the lack of speed, the work was slip-shod and I would have to do it for her. For example, after cleaning Ryan’s vomit, I could still see vomit on the floor that she did not see! E and I just thought we should give her more time, perhaps to get used to Singapore and our level of hygiene. She is the opposite of Emily who eats 5kg of rice every 2 weeks. Michelle eats real little, even lesser than me because she claimed that she is on diet. (Like seriously! What for? Is she trying to be my diet buddy?)

Last Friday, I found out that she told multiple lies- she had a handphone, a prepaid card (for calling, texting and surfing the net), took photos of Baby Gillian and there were also pictures of herself in her ex – employer’s home. We warned her and she apologised and promised to be honest to us. Last night, E found out that she has been secretly using my Nexus to surf the internet. I was so upset that I could not speak. In fact, I threw up the Chocolate Exotic cake that I had for dessert. (Yes, when I literally vomit when I feel upset/disgusted. Ryan takes after me.) I went to check her Facebook and realised that she complained to her friends in Filipino about me being a Nazi on cleanliness and that I kept asking her to eat so she could have strength to work! I used Google translate to find all these out. And yes, she has photos of her acting sexy and cute on Facebook as well. In fact, I would not be surprised if she is reading my blog at this point at the agent’s house. While she is clueless about housework, she is one tech-savvy person!

This morning, when I checked her belongings, I found that she has hidden money in the pocket of her jeans. (And I also found a used and unused pregnancy test kit!) So other lying, being slow, lazy and unhygienic, she is a thief! Wow wow!

It was a sleepless night again. How could I leave my 2 young kids with Michelle? I cannot trust her at all. She is really incompetent. And she is a thief! In the end, E and I had to make the decision of letting her go. If she capable of such actions in 2 weeks, who knows what she would be capable of in 2 months? She might sell my branded bags away! So good luck to the next person who gets her as a helper! It is like playing Russian Roulette. On hindsight, I would have asked Emily to stay. At least, her work standard quite ok. Michelle is my nightmare come true. Despite all these, there is light/rainbow for every bad situation. Mine was in the form of weight loss. In the 2 weeks that she was with us, I lost 1.5kg. Just 2 weeks ago, I was 55kg! I am now 53.5kg(Actually I weigh 53.5kg in the morning and 54kg in the evening.)

Getting a competent and honest helper is akin to striking lottery. For the third helper, we are offering better terms- higher pay, more off days and also allow the usage of the handphone at night. E says if we pay peanuts, we will get monkey helpers. So hopefully, with better conditions, the next helper will be a true helper for the family. These 4 days, it will be a challenge for especially me. It will be a period when I embark on a SAHM without helper. There will be loads of things to do- washing, cleaning, cooking, entertaining Ryan, breastfeeding Baby Gillian. Steep learning curve but we will survive. Maybe I might lose more weight from these 4 days! Free weight loss boot camp!

Hiring a domestic helper…November 2012, Mummy May
For the past few weeks, E and I have been busy looking for a domestic helper. Because of our personalities and our work commitments, it is almost impossible that anyone is interested in doing any household chores after work. Currently, we are just hiring a part time helper who comes in every weekend, clocking around 5-6 hours each time.

Initially, like many couples and families, we were very resistant towards the getting a domestic helper because it will mean lesser privacy in the family, possibility of dealing with unwanted and unnecessary maid issues and maybe increasing costs. With the impending birth of Mei Mei in April, it has finally come to a point whereby we definitely need an extra pair of hands to help around at home to help out with the increasing household duties and caring for the kiddos. We decided that if we are able to get a helper by December instead of March will be good because I will have time to train her and she can also use these few months to acclaimatise to our home and her responsibilities.

This is our third attempt in trying to get a domestic help. The first time was before the birth of Baby Ryan. The second time was before I returned to work after the birth of Baby Ryan. For both times, we ended up backing out in the decision because we could not give up our privacy plus our apartment then(Telok Kurau) was really small. Apparently, third’s a charm.

We spent a good 3-4 weeks looking for a domestic help. Yes, it was not easy. Not when you are pregnant with Number 2. Not when the weather is scorching hot these days. We sacrificed Ryan’s play weekends, scouring Katong Shopping Centre and Roxy Square.

We started off thinking that we wanted a Myanmese helper. Myanmese helper’s salaries are pegged at $420-$450 in the current market at Katong Shopping Centre, compared to the Indonesians’ at $450-$500 and Filipinos at $500-$550. Myanmese helpers also do not request for off days and they do not have mobile phones. So, these are push factors for me. However, the agents did remind us that the Myanmese helpers are weak in the command of English and are slower than their counterparts. In the end, E convinced me that the challenges outweigh the positives. In the end, it was down to getting a Filipino helper.

E made me go back to one of the maid agencies that he trusted. In fact, it was our third visit there. The first time, he recommended us a transfer Filipino helper and used to work for Korean families. We were quite interested in getting her because she apparently could cook a wide variety of Korean dishes and we did like Korean food a lot. When we interviewed her further (with our mothers), we found out that the last time she returned to the Philippines was to deliver a baby. Yes, so the story was that there was something going on between her and the security guard of the condominium she stayed in.

*sigh* Of course, the woman was the victim- she was the one who had to return to the Philippines and now have a baby to provide for. We were sympathetic but reserved about her once we found out that she and her ex boyfriend were still in contact. (It would be quite troublesome if Number 2 comes out when we were employing her….). After hearing the story, my mother was less enthusiastic of having a domestic helper helping her. So, thus, the maid plans were shelved.

The second time, when we once again decided to get a dometic help, E went back to the same agency. The owner recommended us a transfer maid again. The helper told us that her owner sent her back to the agency after 2 weeks and there was no reason given. She suspect it could be possibly because the older maid in the house gossiped and bad mouthed her. Hmm… she did look very sincere but there were too many loophopes in her story. The thing is that when you are selecting a domestic helper and having a total stranger living with your family with young babies, there is really very little room for sympathy and sad stories. This may sound harsh but I really prioritise my family safety above all true/sad/believable stories. In the end, we shelved our maid’s plans yet again because my mother told me that she will try to manage handling Ryan herself.

The third time, we interviewed 3 transfer maid at his office (I really have no idea why his office have that many transfer maids). They have the usual sad stories of their bosses mistreating them, not giving them their salaries for 1.5 years and there is even one who made her work at her shop (it was found out and she had to leave her boss). Because it was my third time there, I was starting to feel rather dubious about the whole thing. Of course, the stories could be true and everything but I just did not feel that it was right.

I complained to my parents about the whole thing and there was one weekend evening when I broke down because I was so exhausted from the maid hunting and my pregnancy hormones were running amok again. My dad reminded me to ask his Filipino tenant, Francis about his maid’s lobang and I called Francis the next day and he was so helpful. He told me to never get transfer maid (of course, that is his personal opinion and I am taking his advice because it sounds reasonable to me). He gave me the contacts and I found our that his deal was much cheaper/affordable that what we looked for in East Coast. We went to the office that evening and we selected our helper in a week’s time. In fact, we interviewed her via Skype as she was in the Philippines. Okay… when we were video conferencing, the applicant did say that I looked pretty. Awwww….smarto! But that was not one of those things that made me hire her. From our interview and the resume, she sounded okay (not psycho) and experienced. Right now, the office is still processing our application but my mind is partially at peace. I am using the word “partially” because the processing is taking longer than what I expect.

Right now, we are crossing our fingers and hoping that the helper will be someone efficient, helpful and kind. In the mean time, I am trying to do up a schedule for her, along with some guidelines. If you know the line of work I am in, you will understand why I will feel more at ease when there is structure for my helper to follow. Heehee.
.... by Mummy May

Winter: Is it really easy to manage a live-in maid?  No.
It is because we have high expectation or we, employers are trying to making things extremely difficult for the FDWs?  No.

It is the way maids behave.... poor working attitude, bad mentality, truly no heart to work, not interested to do a proper domestic job....  Lied and lie again just to get themselves off scrutiny.   Simple instruction to clean the house, demonstrated but FDW just want a job that she can laze and expects employers to close 2 eyes or do her job but get paid on time! 

We don't deserve to be taken advantage ... if MOM and activists can stop being so unfair, siding and protecting maids with sickening policies... life won't be so miserable for me and other victim-employers.

Clamp down on errant maid agents, Straits Times Forum - 5 Sep 2012
I AGREE with Ms Tan Lee Lin ("Potentially cheaper way to hire maids"; Aug 28) that employers should source maids directly from their home countries.

This is not just a question of saving money. We hire agents because we wish to protect ourselves against the risk of the unknown, or have something to fall back on should things go wrong.

It has become extremely easy to hire maids, with most of the paperwork available online. So the agent is now more of a liaison and mediator. However, many of them perform below expectations.

Agents are entrusted with sourcing and training maids. They have to ensure that what employers see is what they get. Sadly, there have been many instances where maids' biodata contain false information about their skills, ages and work experience.

There is no way for employers to verify the information. When we find out the truth, it is often too late - the agent has already collected his dues and washed his hands of the whole affair, claiming ignorance.

Agents are supposedly intermediaries between maids and their employers in case of disputes, or if the maid suddenly decides to terminate her employment. However, the helpless employer is forced to dole out the agency and documentation fees all over again, with no help or recourse available.

An employer even has to pay for the maid's lodging and levy, while she waits at the agency for a suitable job.  The problem has now escalated, and the number of agencies dealing with only transfer maids has burgeoned.

It serves the agent's purpose to encourage a faster turnaround, as he gets his share of the transfer fees from the maid, and also pockets the agency fees from every subsequent employer.
Maids keep fishing for "better" prospects with no thought to their contractual obligations, and it is the employer who stands to lose, with nowhere to turn to.

In view of the growing emphasis on family-friendly practices in Singapore, it is vital to address the childcare issue. With no reliable help, how can one even think about having more babies?

The issue of employers' rights has been raised several times in The Straits Times' Forum page, and the Manpower Ministry has promised to look into implementing steps to protect employers' interests.

However, in practice, nothing has been done. It is time for maids and agencies to be made more accountable, and for proper penalties and prohibitive measures to be put into place to protect employers.

Devi Asha (Mrs)

Potentially cheaper way to hire maids, ST Forum
There is another avenue to source for cheaper Indonesian maids, given the significant pay increase sought by the Indonesian government for its citizens ("Sharp spike in pay demands for Indonesian maids: Wrong families being squeezed" by Mr Lau Wee Cheng; last Wednesday).

I have just returned from the Indonesian city of Bandung. During my visit, I discovered that workers like drivers, salespersons and waiters earned an average of 1.3 million rupiah (S$170) a month. Despite official statistics, my anecdotal observations suggest that there are many people looking for work.

In Malaysia, Indonesian maids are paid RM400 (S$160) a month although there are attempts to raise the salary to RM700.  A resourceful employer can source Indonesian maids from Johor for the same rate because the cost savings are worth his while, given the fact that foreign maids in Singapore are paid about $500 a month.

After completing her contract in two years, she returns home to renew her papers and return to the employer via the same route.

Tan Lee Lin (Ms)

Wrong families being squeezed, ST Forum
The impact of the new pay demands for Indonesian maids will raise the cost of hiring a maid for many families ("Pay more for Indonesian maids from November"; Aug 13 and "Weekly day off for maids a must from next year"; March 6)

Families must pay at least $785 monthly to meet the minimum wage demand of the Indonesian government ($520 plus $265 maid levy). This is a substantial increase over the past years, especially for families who already have the additional burden of paying for young children's or elderly family members' other needs.

Families employing full-time caregivers to help look after their loved ones with disabilities are granted a lower monthly levy of $170 instead of $265. The Ministry of Manpower has been labelling the $170 a concession, when it is, in fact, an unnecessary additional cost for these families.

The ministry's rationale is that the levy serves to moderate demand for foreign maids and ensures that only employers who need and have the financial means to hire them are able to do so.

But if the ministry supports the Government call for encouraging couples to have more children and care for their elderly parents, the levy, regardless of the discount, will not serve the purpose.

If the demand for maids must be moderated, the ministry may have been focusing on the wrong group, because families looking after young children and elderly family members need maids more than any other group, regardless of financial capabilities.

Lau Wee Cheng

* its all about MONEY. Its the Pay and Pay policy. Its all talk about having encouraging couples to have more children.
Can someone tell the gahmen to put their money where their mouth is.

* "The ministry's rationale is that the levy serves to moderate demand for foreign maids and ensures that only employers who need and have the financial means to hire them are able to do so."
This cannot be based on research and where did they pluck the figure of $265 and $170 from? Demand for foreign (or local) maids is very much based on needs (child & elderly minding) of course with the exception of some lazy adult buggers who want to be waited hands on foot.

* Certain things cannot always be compared to older generations. Technology and social systems have progressed forward and we should take advantage of.
Older generations do not have good milk bottles, bottle teats, diapers, rash cream, digital thermometers, playpen....just to name a few.

Certain sectors of the population do need maids at a affordable price, for the social structure of our society has been manipulated to create this need.
High cost of living/housing/medical (hence both parents need to work), intensive promotion of small family units (each owning a small flat), absent of large affordable flats suitable for large families.... just to name a few. To remove the need for maids, we must first re-structure the society.

* some good maids get mistreated and forced to work non stop..some bad maids take advantage of nice employers..and getting paid $500 SGD is a big income for those maids lucky enough to sustain employment here though it is thought to be equivalent to modern day slavery.

* We should do away with employing maids, from any country, for our long term good. But then, how can we solve the problem of childcare & elder care? The ball is at PAP's gate.

* The Indonesian government thinks that Singapore is rich and trying to squeeze as much $$$ from us as possible using maids as bargaining chips.
In my view, Sri Lanka maids are much more intelligence and hardworking than Indonesian maids. I think we should turn to Sri Lanka maids to turn the table against the Indonesia government on the hike.
SL maids are more unlikely to suffer depression and cause harm to employers and themselves.

Maids must first have right attitude and skills, 20 Nov 2013, TODAY Voices
I refer to Mr Raymond Fernando’s letter, “To prevent tragedy, provide better support for maids” (Nov 19). As a maid employer, my experience tells me that maids must have the right work attitude and skills.

Employers would want to treat their maids as guests.
But if they are not cut out to be maids and come here to try out employers, looking for the right environment, pay and family members, then who can employers go to?

Employers are also at their maid’s mercy and are vulnerable when maids are not in the right frame of mind.

Employers pay a monthly levy to the Manpower Ministry, so better support should be provided for both parties. Mr Fernando should check the domestic helper market and working conditions in the region to see if there are better support programmes for maids “to prevent tragedy”.

Pay FDW high salary does not equate to better performance. Employers who have learnt the hard way will know what I mean. They know that FDWs nowadays get much higher salary, better welfare and more people to pity them. Their quality had deteriorated, not worth the dollars and cents!  

If you feel that I am calculative, then I suggest you stop reading this site because what maids did and what I, as well others went thru won't bring your any happiness or achievement.   I believe it's better to pay an inexperienced live-in FDW a reasonable monthly salary of S$400 per month (or lower). The monthly levy that MOM made us paid can be considered as bonus. If the FDW successfully completed 23 months of service with her employer, will be getting a 2-year contract renewal, the levy that her employer has paid to MOM should be cashed out and become her bonus. Let's say $170 x 24 months = S$4080!! This will really motivate a FDW to provide good domestic service, childcare or eldercare and stick to one employer. It will also encourage FDWs to stay in Spore and not fly to Hong Kong or Taiwan. Usual re-contract is 10% salary increment.

Hope MOM encourages Spore agencies to bring in FDWs from new source countries such as rural/poor China provinces, Cambodia or Vietnam to stop embassies from making unreasonable demands. Home countries unwilling to provide high salary to their own people yet expect Spore employers to pay, ridiculous! 

Can MOM stop agencies from treating FDWs like commodities? Stop making employers look like ATM machines, bear all the risks & costs and allowed agencies to make huge profit from each FDW that was marketed? 

Allow DIY, provide a legal online website in each source country for employers to bring in FDWs without going through any agent? Can MOM allow FDW be housed in a boarding house and remove all liabilities lumped on my shoulder? I don't want to know what she does after working hours or on off days. Don't make me fully responsible for her bad behaviour and well-being, especially when she's not physically working in my house.

I don't know how long I can tolerate life living with FDW. Will I be able to endure till M finishes her loan? Will I live to see 明天会更好?

Felt nowadays, hiring a FDW is like killing myself slowly. If you have no sickness, you may end up with. I stopped my long-term medication but worry new FDW may trigger my illness. I feel like I'm a volcano going to erupt. 

Many years ago, before I became a FDW's employer, there are many University grads who accepted the position of Foreign Domestic Worker. Now, a lot are just Primary or Secondary level. Due to little education, they couldn't understand simple English, incapable of doing a proper job as per instructions/training. These FDWs merely came due to the high FDW demand. They flew here thinking FDW are easy jobs, paid high salary and the debts (maid loan) is every employer's responsibility. Maids thought they can get employers to share their wealth example indulge her with expensive mobile phone, fine dining, etc. 

When you hired a maid, the cost above will be even more if the person hired is having such mentality. The reason: you didn't meet her expectations, maid thought you've short-changed her entitlement so she wanted a transfer or runaway. 

Comparison - A maid’s salary: 
Dh1400 to Dh2000 (S$500), with experience 
Dh1100 – Filipino with no experience. 
Expat offers DH2500 to 3000

Hong Kong 
HK$3920 (S$617), with experience 
Employers prefer those who've worked 2 years in Spore 
Given weekly off days and Public Holiday off 

NT$15840 (S$665) , with experience 
Employers prefer those who've worked 2 years in Spore
Levy NT$5000 (S$200) 
Working on off days will be paid NT$528/off-day

US$210 (S$257) - Filipino with no experience 

RM$700 (S$350), no experience – one task recommended for this salary (Employers felt not workable)

S$450 to $500, NO experience, depends on nationality of FDW 
Mandatory weekly off days. Pay compensation for no-off based on 26 working days/month.  Most agencies contract stated at least $20 per day as no off day compensation.  Most Filipinos would prefer weekly or at least a monthly off. 

Expat offers about S$600 to $800 with juicy terms.  Expats tend to spolit the FDWs using their living standards in own country and Spore.

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This blog is not meant for screw-lose activists or loans. My blog aims to gather all FDWs' news scattered everywhere, become a one-stop site for mentally & financially bullied FDWs' employer to beware and learn. Don't pollute this blog with your pro-maid, insensible and selfish comments! Activists posting here are BLIND IDIOTS, IRRITATING freaks and deliberately showing no RESPECT for others... robbing our only breathing space.