Maid agencies rolling out tech aids, nursing help

Some are providing eldercare gadgets and maids trained in using them

AGENCIES are offering high-tech gadgets and maids experienced in nursing and caregiving, as demand for specialist helpers continues to rise.

Agents say tougher regulations in Indonesia and the Philippines mean the price of hiring domestic workers from those countries has risen significantly in the last year, and customers are demanding more for their money.

Nation Employment will, from May, sell and rent out Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets to customers with built-in sensors that can detect falls, discharge in diapers and other things.

Its maids will be trained to use these devices.

The alarms will go off when an elderly person needs attention, and relatives will be kept in the loop as information collected by the gadgets will be sent via a wireless network to their mobile phones.

The information will also be transmitted to computers at a 24-hour monitoring centre in the agency's office in Jurong East and there will be staff members on hand at all times to contact customers if there is an emergency.

The devices will cost employers about $1,000 in total or they can be rented for a monthly fee yet to be decided.

There will also be a monthly subscription fee of $32 to pay for costs such as the services of the monitoring centre's staff.

Mr Gary Chin, Nation Employment's managing director, said: "We need to go for quality and provide employers with value- added services now that the cost of hiring domestic workers has gone up."

Since last year, the Indonesian and Philippine governments have enforced regulations which set minimum salaries for their domestic workers: Filipino maids have to be paid a monthly salary of at least US$400 (S$500) while Indonesian counterparts must be paid a minimum $450 a month.

The foreign governments have also acted to limit the fees that agents can charge the maids, which has resulted in agents passing on more costs to employers.

Employers are now paying $1,200 to $1,600 to employ an Indonesian or Filipino maid, up from $400 and $600.

Most of Singapore's 208,400 maids come from these two countries.

Agents say recruiting domestic workers with nursing and caregiving backgrounds will reduce stress on employers and the maids.

Mrs Susan Ng, who owns Sue Private Nurses Agency, said: "Most domestic helpers have not been trained to do things like changing a feeding tube and carrying a weak and elderly person. This is a reason why many can't cope."

By the end of next month, Ms Ng, who is a trained nurse, will bring in about 100 domestic workers from Myanmar, Sri Lanka and the Philippines who have worked as nurses and caregivers in their countries.

Since last month, Homekeeper agency has also brought in more than 20 domestic workers from Myanmar who have attended a 45-day caregiving course in Yangon. It plans to recruit and train more such workers in the coming months.

Employers interviewed welcomed the plans.

Businessman Jimmy Lim, 42, is interested in buying the sensor gadgets from Nation Employment to help his elderly mother.

He said: "The devices will help to reduce the stress on my maid. She can do other household chores and have peace of mind because the alarm will sound if my mum needs her help. But I hope these services will be kept affordable."

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