Forum: Transparency needed from FDW employment agencies

Employment agencies of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) should provide more clarity and transparency on the services they provide, accompanied by a fee breakdown.

The discussion about the lack of fee distinction between new and transfer FDWs (Agency charges same amount for new and transfer maids, by Ms Ng Beng Choo, Feb 20; Maid agencies abusing their powers, by Transient Workers Count Too, Feb 24; and Maid agencies have the right to set price of fees for services, by the Association of Employment Agencies, March 2) has identified a gap in the information available to the agencies' two primary stakeholders: FDWs and their employers.

Preliminary findings from a study by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) show that FDWs pay an average of three months' salary in agency fees, although there seems to be no industry standard for what services agencies provide.

In fact, agencies vary wildly in the amount of matching they carry out (between FDWs' caregiving abilities and prospective care recipients' needs), in the kind of eldercare-specific training they provide FDWs and in the kind of post-placement support they offer.

The services rendered to both employers and FDWs are even more opaque when it comes to transfer FDWs.

It can take an FDW between a day and a week to move from her former place of work into her new employer's home, according to our findings.

Yet it is unclear what services agencies are providing to FDWs during this short period in terms of training or accommodation. If there are administrative costs associated with facilitating the transfer, surely this could be standardised, perhaps by the number of days the FDW is with the agency.

Some employment agencies do not charge transfer FDWs any fees at all, raising questions about the necessity of such fees.

Employment agencies play a crucial role in meeting local caregiving needs, and ensuring that the women who come here to provide such care are adequately supported.

To secure the best care outcomes for our elderly and peace of mind for FDW employers, and minimise FDWs' debts in agency fees, more transparency is needed on the services provided by employment agencies.

A. Preethi Devi
Projects Executive
Association of Women for Action and Research

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