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Treatment of foreign domestic workers in Singapore

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Treatment of foreign domestic workers in Singapore

Postby Pal » Tue, 25 May 2004 9:27 pm

Newsweek - Maids

One in every seven households has one. But not us. Three years ago, when we moved to Singapore from London, I told myself, "She'd spoil the kids rotten." With the impending arrival of our third child, though, I'm giving in. We're hiring a live-in maid.

So it was, one recent Sunday, that my husband and I found ourselves sitting in a small room at an employment agency, poring over the files of eight job applicants. We read details of their family background, how many children they had left behind in the Philippines or Indonesia, previous working experience, whether they were willing to cut their hair or cook pork.

Hiring someone to whom you're going to entrust your house and children is no easy task. But, hey, as the agency says, if I don't like her I can "exchange" her within six months, no questions asked. Given that most spoke only limited English, I pondered whether to give our candidates a reading test. Too humiliating, I concluded. Even so, one young woman blurted out to us, indignantly, that the couple in the next room had just asked her to read a children's book. She could!

The touchy question was always why these women would want to leave their current employer. For those who work for local Chinese families, the answer is often obvious. According to one survey, the average monthly pay of a maid in this prosperous city-state is $154. She typically works from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Three in 10 report they do not get breaks, and half do not get even one day off per month. In these conditions, working for a Western family can mean hitting the jackpot. Expats tend to pay more, give every Sunday off and, reportedly, treat them better. I say reportedly because after-dinner conversations invariably turn to what misdeeds one's maid has been up to, from talking on the cell phone too long to watching television when their employers are away.

Apart from the long hours and low pay, I was shocked by other disturbing realities of the maids' working lives. Elvy, a tiny 31-year-old Filipina who shifted nervously on her chair, told us that her employer had physically and verbally abused her. I felt guilty. As much as I wanted to help, I couldn't hire someone so emotionally scarred. Two other maids also said they were verbally abused. For us, that made three out of eight.

The ubiquity of such abuse concerns the government. As of April 1, first-time employers now have to sit through a four-hour "orientation" course on how to treat an FDW, as foreign domestic workers are officially called. "Using the term maid is a bit degrading," our instructor explained. As if that were the only degrading thing. During our instruction program, I heard about one employer who thought nothing of watching her maid shower in the morning—not out of prurience, but to ensure that her exacting standards of hygiene were being met. Another employer locked her maid in the house when the family went away on weekends. I was advised to give my FDW her own bed and let her take a break now and again. I was also told it would be all right to start her off with just a day off each month, and that it would be perfectly standard for me to restrict access to her salary by paying it into a joint account—so she could not run away.

Was it a slave or a maid I would be hiring? I still have mixed feelings, even as I embark on this particular adventure in easy (for me) living. If, in three years, I find myself gossiping about the shocking expectations maids have these days—such as eating fresh vegetables or taking hot showers—I'll know it is time to move on.

Newsweek - 17 May 2004
Singapore Expats

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Bubbles

Treatment of Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore.

Postby Bubbles » Tue, 01 Jun 2004 7:13 am

This is a reply to the lady or gentleman who posted such a detailed mail regarding the potential hiring of a maid for their household.

I am a British woman who is now living back in the UK but lived in Singapore very happily for eight years. I am well aware of the fact that you must get tales of horror or delight from friends and colleagues regarding their experiences with their choices in this matter.

Could I just add my two penneth worth here? I don't know what the going rate of payment for maids is at the moment, but I can assure you it's nowhere near the figure you quoted......was that 154 bucks? Or was that a figure you were quoted that some 'employers'...(I use the term very loosly...I'd say slavedrivers myself)...give their girls?

I left Singapore five years ago and when I left I was paying my maid 450 then.....so who knows what increase I could expect to pay now?

I had three maids in all.......each of them smashing girls. However I would NEVER, EVER......hire a girl straight from the Philippines.....they would have to come from another employer in Singapore. Yes, let an agency do the transfer for you.....(it's an almost impossible task to do yourself)......but, make sure you get thorough references from a previous employer.

My first girl only stayed for two years, and was happy with us and us with her, but she wanted to move on, spread her wings and went to Hong Kong. You must be prepared for this, and not be the sort of employer who huffs and puffs when girls want to move on......you will only get a miserable helper at home then.

Our second maid was lovely but very religious, and took lots of bible classes in the week and also on Sundays.....of course, every Sunday was her free day, but I have to say that in the end she was going out about three nights a week and even though it is not my place to critisize, I did feel that was rather too many nights out, as we had small children......and she was rather resentful if I asked her to babysit on a class night......we parted company when she married after three years very amicably.

My third maid was an absolute treasure and I was so very sad to leave her when we left. Three happy years together and I still visit her now when I'm in Singapore about twice a year.

I would say though, be careful in your expectations. Be prepared to be patient with what you want her to do.....teach her quietly and regularly your routine.....they are all clever girls usually, and will slot nicely into your family ways...but show them exactly what you want them to do.

Of course, please make their rooms as pleasant as possible. Good fans or aircon units if possible. Nice furniture..and plently of privacy please, after all, they have their lives.

I encouraged my girls to be sociable with other maids, as I knew she needed friends in a strange land.

Yes there are horror stories of girls bringing men back, or stealing, or burning clothes or using the phone all the time.......but these are the exceptions rather than the rules.

All I can say is............we are priviliged to be in such a position to be able to afford domestic help, so we have a duty to be fair to our employees, both monetarily and of course, honourably. I always thought, 'What if my daughter had to go to a foreign land to earn money with a strange family. What would I be like?'......so, all my girls are still friends of mine and of my family.

I wish you luck.

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Re: Treatment of Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore.

Postby jpatokal » Tue, 01 Jun 2004 9:18 am

Bubbles wrote:Could I just add my two penneth worth here? I don't know what the going rate of payment for maids is at the moment, but I can assure you it's nowhere near the figure you quoted......was that 154 bucks? Or was that a figure you were quoted that some 'employers'...(I use the term very loosly...I'd say slavedrivers myself)...give their girls?
I left Singapore five years ago and when I left I was paying my maid 450 then.....so who knows what increase I could expect to pay now?


Good for you (and the maid), and Filipino maids are usually paid more, but you were still being quite generous -- salaries for Sri Lankan maids start at S$200 a month. Plus of course the fairly ridiculous levy of S$345 a month charged for the sole reason that the government can get away with it :roll:

For most maids getting employed by an expat is a plum job. They're unlikely to get beaten up on a regular basis the way they would be in a local family, and expats are usually a lot freer in throwing cash around...

mei ling

Re: Treatment of foreign domestic workers in Singapore

Postby mei ling » Fri, 16 Jul 2004 12:11 am

Pal wrote:With the impending arrival of our third child, though, I'm giving in. We're hiring a live-in maid.


whether it's 1 in 4 households or 5 households many families in Singapore are caught with a 'impending' situation like yours,hence the choice of engaging a 'extra' helping hand(hopefully) over other child care alternatives.

pal wrote: in the next room had just asked her to read a children's book. She could!

i see nothing wrog in that.Prior employment in some offices the panel of interviewers makes the applicants sits for a grammar and simple mathematics paper before arriving their confirmation.

probably the family feel the 'different' when a hefty S$545(excluding meals and lodging) maid's monthly expenses are disbursementd from their own pocket and not from the company's account(as in all expat's cases?)

pal wrote:question was always why these women would want to leave their current employer.

i wonder too, my expat's colleagues maid would only last a record of 7mths and the family has got to starts all over again after each 7months.And the whole offices usually wonder in bewilderment because their maids had been treated like a 'VIP' in my colleagues home and yet
they still chose to 'exit'.

pal wrote:for those who work for local Chinese families, the answer is often obvious. According to one survey, the average monthly pay of a maid in this prosperous city-state is $154. She typically works from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Three in 10 report they do not get breaks, and half do not get even one day off per month.


i don't know where on earth you've derived at this meagre sum of $154/-.For a Indonesian fresh maid their monthly renumeration is peg at S$230/- and a fresh philli's maid at S$330/-(all excluding the levy of $345/-).The operational hours are usually discussed and agreed with the maid (but most maids are 'controlled/manipulated' by their agents on any consensus issues)

I guess, a company/bosses employs us to suit their needs and in the current 'new age economy' you either take it or leave it if you want that job.I wouldn't demand that my boss adjust his environment to suit me. That would be too much.In this instances, i am talking abt.lots of companies who doesn't pay overtime or extra perks for that extra 50 hours of efforts you put in.

pay wrote:In these conditions, working for a Western family can mean hitting the jackpot. Expats tend to pay more, give every Sunday off and, reportedly, treat them better.


From some of my overseas alliances,i was told some of their companies maid's expenses(salary and levy+ meals/lodging)falls into their companies account, hence should there be any mishaps or damages they would not feel the wound.


[/quote="pay"]apart from the long hours and low pay, I was shocked by other disturbing realities of the maids' working lives. Elvy, a tiny 31-year-old Filipina who shifted nervously on her chair, told us that her employer had physically and verbally abused her. I felt guilty. As much as I wanted to help, I couldn't hire someone so emotionally scarred. Two other maids also said they were verbally abused. For us, that made three out of eight.
[/quote]
It's always inaccurate to hear 1 side of the sagas being related,to be impartial and morally right, it's only fair to pass judgement from the mouth of both the employer and the maid because we won't know if 1 side is 'fabricating' or telling the truth.

particularly the phillipinoes who would luvs to 'roar it out' for the world to hear that their employers had verbally and physically abuses them.Again, we won't know if it's true or mere 'exaggeration'.

My friends and me too had witnessed in our own naked eyes, phillipinoes 'secretly' spanking their charges and yell at them on top of their voices..just the other day one just yell at her charge seemingly indirectly trying to darts at me??Ok, i will just tell you the incidents.Her charge is taking 3 extra straws which my kids has got none.My maid just politely request that 'is it all-right for her charge to give 1 to my kid since she has extras.Immediately she roars like a queen lion and tell my maid to request from the other counter????I was appalled and pale at that moment??

There are just too many of these incidents that i've seen and I've always felt that the phillipinoes are the tarty tongues,agressively defensive lots(not to mentioned about how 'tarty and acidic' their tongues get when the madame just asked one question at the neigbourhood compound).

[/quote="pay"]The ubiquity of such abuse concerns the government. As of April 1, first-time employers now have to sit through a four-hour "orientation" course on how to treat an FDW, as foreign domestic workers are officially called. [/quote]

This clearly manifested that our government is one good concern government.They had the wellfares of the maids at heart.So much so has been legally imposed and charged-all-out at the employers, what about
when the maids verbally and physical abuses,murdered,permanently maimed her charges, annihilate the home and it's environments what does the authority or the society has to say about it?the answer is then:
NOTHING.

Is it fair?.

pay wrote:Was it a slave or a maid I would be hiring?

The next time you visit a agency, questions them because they are the person who created all these at the expense of their money slaves i.e. the employers and their maids.

Guest

Re: Treatment of foreign domestic workers in Singapore

Postby Guest » Fri, 16 Jul 2004 12:16 am

mei ling wrote:
Pal wrote:With the impending arrival of our third child, though, I'm giving in. We're hiring a live-in maid.


whether it's 1 in 4 households or 5 households many families in Singapore are caught with a 'impending' situation like yours,hence the choice of engaging a 'extra' helping hand(hopefully) over other child care alternatives.

pal wrote: in the next room had just asked her to read a children's book. She could!

i see nothing wrog in that.Prior employment in some offices the panel of interviewers makes the applicants sits for a grammar and simple mathematics paper before arriving their confirmation.

probably the family feel the 'different' when a hefty S$545(excluding meals and lodging) maid's monthly expenses are disbursementd from their own pocket and not from the company's account(as in all expat's cases?)

pal wrote:question was always why these women would want to leave their current employer.

i wonder too, my expat's colleagues maid would only last a record of 7mths and the family has got to starts all over again after each 7months.And the whole offices usually wonder in bewilderment because their maids had been treated like a 'VIP' in my colleagues home and yet
they still chose to 'exit'.

pal wrote:for those who work for local Chinese families, the answer is often obvious. According to one survey, the average monthly pay of a maid in this prosperous city-state is $154. She typically works from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Three in 10 report they do not get breaks, and half do not get even one day off per month.


i don't know where on earth you've derived at this meagre sum of $154/-.For a Indonesian fresh maid their monthly renumeration is peg at S$230/- and a fresh philli's maid at S$330/-(all excluding the levy of $345/-).The operational hours are usually discussed and agreed with the maid (but most maids are 'controlled/manipulated' by their agents on any consensus issues)

I guess, a company/bosses employs us to suit their needs and in the current 'new age economy' you either take it or leave it if you want that job.I wouldn't demand that my boss adjust his environment to suit me. That would be too much.In this instances, i am talking abt.lots of companies who doesn't pay overtime or extra perks for that extra 50 hours of efforts you put in.

pay wrote:In these conditions, working for a Western family can mean hitting the jackpot. Expats tend to pay more, give every Sunday off and, reportedly, treat them better.


From some of my overseas alliances,i was told some of their companies maid's expenses(salary and levy+ meals/lodging)falls into their companies account, hence should there be any mishaps or damages they would not feel the wound.


pay wrote:apart from the long hours and low pay, I was shocked by other disturbing realities of the maids' working lives. Elvy, a tiny 31-year-old Filipina who shifted nervously on her chair, told us that her employer had physically and verbally abused her. I felt guilty. As much as I wanted to help, I couldn't hire someone so emotionally scarred. Two other maids also said they were verbally abused. For us, that made three out of eight.

It's always inaccurate to hear 1 side of the sagas being related,to be impartial and morally right, it's only fair to pass judgement from the mouth of both the employer and the maid because we won't know if 1 side is 'fabricating' or telling the truth.

particularly the phillipinoes who would luvs to 'roar it out' for the world to hear that their employers had verbally and physically abuses them.Again, we won't know if it's true or mere 'exaggeration'.

My friends and me too had witnessed in our own naked eyes, phillipinoes 'secretly' spanking their charges and yell at them on top of their voices..just the other day one just yell at her charge seemingly indirectly trying to darts at me??Ok, i will just tell you the incidents.Her charge is taking 3 extra straws which my kids has got none.My maid just politely request that 'is it all-right for her charge to give 1 to my kid since she has extras.Immediately she roars like a queen lion and tell my maid to request from the other counter????I was appalled and pale at that moment??

There are just too many of these incidents that i've seen and I've always felt that the phillipinoes are the tarty tongues,agressively defensive lots(not to mentioned about how 'tarty and acidic' their tongues get when the madame just asked one question at the neigbourhood compound).

pay wrote:The ubiquity of such abuse concerns the government. As of April 1, first-time employers now have to sit through a four-hour "orientation" course on how to treat an FDW, as foreign domestic workers are officially called.


This clearly manifested that our government is one good concern government.They had the wellfares of the maids at heart.So much so has been legally imposed and charged-all-out at the employers, what about
when the maids verbally and physical abuses,murdered,permanently maimed her charges, annihilate the home and it's environments what does the authority or the society has to say about it?the answer is then:
NOTHING.

Is it fair?.

pay wrote:Was it a slave or a maid I would be hiring?

The next time you visit a agency, questions them because they are the person who created all these at the expense of their money slaves i.e. the employers and their maids.


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