Live-out option long overdue

Instead of fretting over the Indonesian government's plan to stop sending new live-in maids abroad, it is time for us to consider how we should evolve with changing circumstances and find novel solutions ("Indonesia plans to stop sending new live-in maids abroad"; May 18, and "Live-out maids 'will lead to more costs, issues'"; May 19).

Currently, families which need help with cooking and housekeeping have to either employ a live-in domestic helper or engage the services of housekeeping and catering companies.

However, the rates of such service companies remain relatively high, commensurate with the high labour costs incurred.

Hence, if these similar services could be provided by live-out maids at lower costs, then, households which do not need live-in maids could opt for the live-out option.

Having live-out maids, therefore, is an alternative that is long overdue.

This arrangement is not intended to replace the existing live-in arrangement.

Instead, both should coexist to meet the needs of different households and address different labour restrictions from source countries.

Live-out maids should be employed by licensed agencies, which should undertake the responsibility of providing insurance, medical benefits, board and lodging for the maids.

It is envisaged that households will contract with such agencies for the provision of services by one or more maids.

The advantages of the live-out maid system include:

  • Minimising the risk of abuse of maids;
  • Greater flexibility for households and maids;
  • Enabling maids to specialise in specific tasks in which they excel;
  • Reducing the ratio of maids to households in Singapore, as one maid can work for more than one household if the duties required need not be performed on a daily basis;
  • Source of help for households with live-in maids who go on home leave, whose maids leave employment suddenly, or which need short-term help.

Also, households which do not need live-in maids will not need to compete with households which genuinely need them.

The authorities could consider working with maid agencies and service companies to develop a viable live-out system, where cooking and housekeeping services can be offered at lower rates.

Such a system will, in the long term, benefit households and maids, as well as create new opportunities for existing maid agencies and service companies.

Tan Li Hua (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Live-out option long overdue'. Print Edition | Subscribe