Cambodian maids to earn at least $420 a month

Placement fee will be paid with loan from finance firm, not by employer

Salaries which start at $420, and no placement fees from employers.

These proposals were part of a document the Cambodian government sent to selected maid agents, as Singapore moves ahead with a pilot scheme to see how well Cambodian maids adapt to life here.

The scheme, which runs until the end of 2015, will see its first batch of 400 maids arrive in July this year.

Cambodia has proposed employment terms for these maids in a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which was sent this week to the six maid agents picked by the Manpower Ministry to recruit the maids.

Workers with no experience will get a minimum of $420 a month.

Those with experience will be paid at least $450. If the maid works on all her four rest days each month, she has to be paid another $70.

Also, employers will not have to pay the maid's placement fees upfront, similar to the recruitment scheme Jakarta introduced for Indonesian maids last year.

Under the previous system, employers paid these fees, and recoup them by deducting from the maid's monthly salary.

Instead, the placement fees, which will amount to around $2,500 and include the cost of training and profit for agents, will be paid for by loans from a Cambodian financial firm. The maids will repay the loans through monthly instalments.

The Singapore agents told The Straits Times that the terms were on a par with those for Indonesian and Filipino maids, who make up the bulk of domestic workers in Singapore. Monthly salaries for Indonesian maids start at $450, while Filipino maids get at least $500. The Straits Times understands that the agents will sign the MOU by next week.

Nation Employment managing director Gary Chin, who travelled with the five other Singapore agents to Phnom Penh earlier this month, was impressed by the maids he met. "Their English is quite good. Some spoke Mandarin and Chinese dialects which they picked up from working in Malaysia," he said.

The agents were told that there are 14,000 Cambodian maids who have returned home from Malaysia, which has been employing Cambodian maids for nearly a decade, and can come here to work.

Still, some industry players have questioned the proposed loan scheme for placement fees. They feel it is unlikely that any finance firm in Cambodia would be interested in the project because of its relatively small scale.

Ms Bridget Tan, chief executive of the foreign workers' group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), said the $2,500 fee was excessive. The fee's profit margin will be split between the Singapore and Cambodian agents.

"It probably takes just $200 or so to train and provide accommodation for the maids. The cost of living in Cambodia is quite low," she said, urging agents to lower their profits.

Meanwhile, the Singapore agents have started to offer Cambodian maids here.

Nation Employment has a handful of employers who have already paid agency fees of about $1,800 to ensure that they get a maid by July.

One of them is accountant E. Lee, 54. She said: "I think Cambodian maids can be a good alternative to Indonesians or Filipinos. My agent said the worker I will get has experience working in Malaysia. I am hopeful that she will adapt and work well here."

ameltan@sph.com.sg