Why It Matters

Protecting maids' welfare

From Oct 1, Singapore employers are required to provide their maids with better personal accident insurance coverage. It is a move in the right direction as it further cements the Government's commitment to looking after the welfare of the 230,000 foreign maids in the country.

Rules to ensure maids are better taken care of have been ramped up progressively, from introducing compulsory medical insurance in 2008 to making weekly rest days mandatory in 2013.

With this latest move, Singapore also ensures it remains an attractive destination amid new competition from regional countries coveting these workers as well. For instance, Japan, which also has an ageing population and a dwindling birth rate, opened its doors recently to foreign maids.

It is particularly important to head off such competition as Singapore will need about 300,000 maids by 2030, to cope with the projected rise in resident households with young or elderly members, and two working spouses.

Under changes announced on May 7 by Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan, the minimum insurance coverage for personal accidents that employers must buy for their maids will be raised to $60,000, from $40,000. The current minimum is no longer enough as maids' salaries and the cost of living in their home countries have gone up since the last review in 2008, Mr Tan noted.

This insurance is for any sudden, unforeseen and unexpected incident that results in permanent disability or death. When the new minimum coverage takes effect on Oct 1, employers can expect their annual premiums to rise by between $7 and $15.

Foreign domestic workers enjoying a free Christmas Day party organised by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training last year. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Other changes include clarifying the period of insurance coverage and letting maids and their legal representatives file claims with insurers, instead of relying on their employers to do so.

These changes, in providing better protection, will give maids greater peace of mind and play an important part in maintaining, if not boosting, the supply of maids Singapore will need in the years to come.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'Protecting maids' welfare'. Print Edition | Subscribe