Lift veil of secrecy over fees maids pay in home countries

While itemised bills for maid agency fees may offer some transparency, they do not solve the problem of overcharging by agents ("More transparency urged in agency fees for maids"; Sunday).

This is because a large part of the fees comes from placement or loan amounts that are charged in the source country.

Already, all maid agencies in Singapore are tabulating and providing breakdowns for fees charged, as part of their due diligence.

If the problem is to be solved, there need to be discussions with stakeholders in source countries.

Domestic workers come to our shores with hefty loans they have taken up at home to pay for their passage here.

Many of them do not even know the amount they owe their agents at home, as these agents do not usually give official breakdowns of the amount they collect from the foreign domestic workers.

The workers are also not able to make their agents accountable for the amount paid.

In view of this secrecy, domestic helpers can be better protected if the authorities in the source countries mandate a cap on the fees payable by domestic workers to the agents in the source countries.

However, we understand this is easier said than done. The issue cannot be resolved unilaterally.

For the time being, the relevant associations and agencies here may want to consider working with their stakeholders in the source countries to put in place best practices to ensure that the fees charged are fair and the amount made public.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'Lift veil of secrecy over fees maids pay in home countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe