Cleaning companies bring in workers from more countries

Cleaning companies have started hiring foreign workers from countries such as Myanmar and Thailand to meet the rising demand for part-time cleaning services.

A1 Cleaning Services and Dew Homes said they have brought in workers from Myanmar since late last year and Ministry Of Clean said it is looking to bring in staff from Thailand and Myanmar.

These cleaning companies are participating in a one-year pilot scheme launched by the Manpower Ministry last September to meet the increasing demand for part-time household services.

With the availability of these cleaners, it is hoped that Singaporeans will not need to hire maids just to help with household chores.

During the Budget speech on Feb 19, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said there is a need to ensure foreign domestic worker demand is commensurate with need, and avoid an overdependency on them.

There were about 240,000 maids here last year - up by about 40 per cent from a decade earlier.

The pilot Household Services Scheme allows some cleaning firms to hire female foreign workers from four more countries - India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka or Thailand - to provide part-time household cleaning services. Previously, firms could hire such workers only from China, Malaysia and North Asian territories, including Taiwan and South Korea.

The current 15 companies under the scheme provide workers for part-time household services, such as cleaning, and they can be deployed to multiple households.

The workers live in company-provided accommodation, unlike live-in foreign domestic workers.

A1 Cleaning Services said they now have about 14 cleaners from Myanmar. They clean about three houses a day for an average of three hours per house. Customers pay about $19 an hour for their services.

Mr Bryan Goh, director of A1 Cleaning Services, said: "Demand for part-time cleaning services has always been there. However, supply is very, very limited. Given the current trend of rising demand, we forecast that demand will double or triple in the next five years."

Ministry of Clean said its workers clean about 100 homes a day now, compared with 50 five years ago. Its customers are mainly middle-to upper-class families who pay $20 to $25 an hour for cleaning services.

Its managing director Rio Goh said: "Demand is rising because younger couples either prefer privacy and do not like live-in maids or their apartments are too small to house them. The cost of having a maid is also high."

Noting that some Singaporeans turn to untrained and illegal workers to help with household chores, Mr Rio Goh said his firm ensures its cleaners are properly trained. Their training includes tapping virtual reality technology to simulate scenarios that show, for instance, the immediate degradation of surfaces if the wrong chemicals are used.

Since January this year, researcher Eelynn Ng, 39, has had a cleaner from Myanmar going to her home once a week to help with household chores.

"We are not at home most of the time so there is not much work to justify a live-in maid," said Ms Ng.

"Part-time cleaning services offer families the flexibility of having an extra pair of hands on deck without the need for space to accommodate a domestic worker," she added.

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Cleaning companies bring in workers from more countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe