More families hiring two or more maids

ONE MAID NOT ENOUGH:Indonesian maid Siti (left), who goes by one name, cleaning the house porch with her employer Liew Bee Choo, and helping Mr Liew (above) down the stairs. The Liews' second maid is arriving this week.
ONE MAID NOT ENOUGH:Indonesian maid Siti (left), who goes by one name, cleaning the house porch with her employer Liew Bee Choo, and helping Mr Liew (above) down the stairs. The Liews' second maid is arriving this week.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
ONE MAID NOT ENOUGH:Indonesian maid Siti (left), who goes by one name, cleaning the house porch with her employer Liew Bee Choo, and helping Mr Liew (above) down the stairs. The Liews' second maid is arriving this week.
ONE MAID NOT ENOUGH:Indonesian maid Siti (left), who goes by one name, cleaning the house porch with her employer Liew Bee Choo, and helping Mr Liew (above) down the stairs. The Liews' second maid is arriving this week.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

Additional help needed for task of caring for the elderly and children, on top of housework

Housewife Liew Bee Choo had been grappling with the decision to hire a second maid for the past two years.

Her hesitancy was due to the cost and a fear that the new maid might not get along with her current one.

But now that she is in her late 60s, Mrs Liew finds it hard to cope with the housework in her two-storey bungalow near Upper Thomson Road.

Her husband, Mr Liew Keng Pang, an 84-year-old retired businessman who has rheumatism, also needs help moving around.

Last month, Mrs Liew hired a second Indonesian maid who will arrive in Singapore this week.

More Singaporeans are finding that they need two or more maids to deal with the task of caring for elderly family members and young children, on top of household chores.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told The Sunday Times that the proportion of employers with two or more maids has stayed at 4 per cent for the past three years.

There are no official figures for the total number of maid employers in Singapore.

However, industry players estimate that the pool of employers with two or more domestic helpers has swelled from about 7,600 in 2012 to about 8,000 last year. The total number of maid employers is likely to have grown from 190,000 to 200,000 in the last two years.

MOM figures show a spike in the number of maids from 209,600 in 2012 to 214,500 as of December last year.

The MOM said it considers applications for a second maid if employers have someone over 60 living with them or if they have two or more children under 18.

It costs about $900 a month to employ a maid, including her $500 salary, monthly levy and living expenses. But bosses say they would prefer to pay for an extra helper rather than stress out their existing one and risk her throwing in the towel.

Said Mrs Liew, in Mandarin: "I help my maid now with housework. But in a few years' time, I may not be able to do so and I think she won't be able to cope. My husband will also need more help to move around."

Maid agencies said the burn-out rate among maids who care for the elderly is high and having an extra pair of hands will help them cope better.

Orange Employment Agency owner Shirley Ng said: "Some maids quit just after a few days because taking care of the elderly is a 24/7 job."

Best Home Employment Agency boss Tay Khoon Beng said employers with two maids are also more willing to give their workers days off.

Businesswoman Katherine Han, 71, who hires one maid to care for her bedridden husband and another to do housework, agreed it is especially important to give maids who care for the elderly a day off.

"They are working almost all the time," she said. "They need to rest and recharge."

However, problems can arise when hiring two or more helpers.

Mr Karl Tan, owner of maid agency Inter-Mares Management Services, said: "The more dominant maid may want to assign the responsibilities and do less work. This will lead to unhappiness."

Employers said they are mindful of possible tensions between their helpers.

"I will be fair when assigning work," said Mrs Liew. "I will also be around to supervise so nothing will escape my eyes."

ameltan@sph.com.sg