Some employers here hiring new maids may be left high and dry for at least the next three weeks, after the Philippine government suspended the processing of exit permits for Filipinos hoping to work overseas.
It said in a recent notice that the suspension would last from yesterday to Dec 1 while "persistent reports of illegal recruitment activities" are investigated. The suspension may be extended, if needed.
New applications for overseas employment certificates, which are needed by Filipino workers to leave the country for work, will not be processed during this time - except for workers hired by international organisations and diplomats, seafarers hired by agencies, government hires and those returning from home leave. So, workers other than maids will also be affected.
The suspension applies to workers heading to all countries, and not just Singapore, said Mr Ramon Pastrana, labour attache at the Philippine Embassy here.
Some employment agents had already booked tickets for maids to fly to Singapore this week in anticipation of the certificates being approved. Maids who travelled to Manila from other provinces to prepare to go abroad were also stranded.
Mr Low Moon Heng, director of Passion Employment Agency, said he has seven maids who are supposed to arrive in Singapore soon. His agency is providing boarding for them in Manila while they wait for further news.
"We have to explain the situation to the employers and ask them to make other childcare arrangements or hire a maid from another country," he said.
Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) president K. Jayaprema said the certificate is the last step before a worker can work overseas. Her group has appealed to the Philippine authorities to at least process applications where the maids have completed the rest of the process and are just waiting for the final green light to leave.
There are an estimated 180,000 Filipinos working in Singapore. The suspension also affects workers such as IT professionals and nurses.
PeopleWorldwide Consulting managing director David Leong said he had planned to place about 30 nurses and therapists in jobs here by January, but may now have to delay the deployments. He added that it is not clear how the suspension helps to expose illegal recruiters.
"Workers who apply for the certificate would have gone through the official, legal process," he said.
For local employer and mother of three Ong Hse-Yin, 40, the timing could not be worse.
Her previous maid went home last week, and she had been expecting a new helper to arrive at the end of this week.
"My older kids are starting their school holidays so I have to find a Plan B, someone to watch over them during the day," she said.