Singapore Budget 2018: Higher maid levies for those without caregiving needs

From April 1 next year, employers who hire maids solely to help with household chores will have to pay a monthly levy of $300 for one maid, and $450 for a second maid. This is up from the flat rate of $265 now. The levy changes come amid a marked ris
From April 1 next year, employers who hire maids solely to help with household chores will have to pay a monthly levy of $300 for one maid, and $450 for a second maid. This is up from the flat rate of $265 now. The levy changes come amid a marked rise in the number of maids here. There were about 240,000 last year - up about 40 per cent from a decade earlier.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Employers of domestic helpers will have to fork out more in levies from April 1 next year if they hire maids solely to help with household chores.

The levy for one maid will rise to $300 a month, and $450 for a second maid. This is up from the flat rate of $265 now.

Such households comprise about 20 per cent of Singaporean employers of foreign domestic workers.

The other 80 per cent receive a levy concession as their maids help with caring for children or grandchildren below 16 years old, the elderly, or family members with disabilities.

The monthly concessionary levy rate of $60 will continue to apply for these families and for employers who are elderly or have disabilities.

But the elderly family member must be at least 67 years old to qualify under the aged person scheme. This is up from 65 now.

Finance Minster Heng Swee Keat said this change, which also kicks in from April 1 next year, takes into account the improving life expectancy and health of Singaporeans.

 
 
 

Households that qualify for the levy concession under the aged person scheme before April 1 next year will not be affected, even if the elderly person is aged 65 or 66.

The levy changes come amid a marked increase in the number of maids. There were about 240,000 maids here last year - up about 40 per cent from a decade earlier.

Mr Heng said: "We must ensure that foreign domestic worker demand is commensurate with need, and avoid an overdependency on (them)."

The Manpower Ministry launched a one-year pilot of the Household Services Scheme last September to give families more options. The scheme allows some cleaning companies to hire more female foreign workers to provide part-time household cleaning services.

These workers can come from India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka or Thailand, in addition to the existing source countries for the service sector, such as China and Malaysia.

The ministry said there are no plans to increase the monthly concessionary levy rate for maids.

Employer Cecilia Lee, 47, who pays the full levy now as her two children are aged 18 and 20, said she will continue to hire a helper next year even though she will have to pay $35 more each month.

Ms Lee and her husband work in the banking and media industries.

She said she gets home too late on weekdays to cook dinner or do housework, adding: "Not many households can afford to be on a single income and maintain a desired lifestyle."

Although she tried to do without a maid for six months last year, hiring a part-time helper still cost $100 for each half-day weekly session and she had to stay home to supervise the cleaning.

"I also tried to eat out or order in, but hawker food feels different from home-cooked food and may not be as healthy," she said.

Ms Lee, who lives in a three-storey terraced house, said she will just have to manage the additional cost when the levy rises next year. "I can cut back on one cup of local coffee a day," she said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2018, with the headline 'Higher maid levies for those without caregiving needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe