ONCE shunned as sub-par employees, transfer maids - those who are already working here but want to work for a new family - are now in big demand.
Employers here are turning to such maids as they can start working for them in a matter of days, compared with the 10 weeks or more that it takes to hire a new maid from Indonesia or the Philippines. Agent fees are also slashed for these workers - fees are $700 to $800, compared with more than $2,000 for a new maid.
Five agents who specialise in these helpers told The Straits Times last week that they have seen a 20 per cent to 40 per cent increase in business in the past five months.
Mr Desmond Ding of SG Manpower, which deals with transfer maids, said that in the past, such maids were shunned by many employers as people thought they had problems with their previous bosses.
"But employers don't have a choice now. The wait for a new maid is just too long," he said.
Business owner Patricia Wong, 47, who hired a transfer maid four months ago, agreed.
"A new maid has to be trained from scratch," she said.
"Transfer maids have been working here for some time, so they require less supervision and training."
One such maid, Ms Khin Aye Aye, 33, who is from Myanmar, found an employer who would pay her $600 a month - $100 more than the average salary. Her employer also gives her a day off every Sunday.
"I am experienced and speak good English. I was sure I could find an employer," said Ms Khin, who has been working in Singapore for four years.
At the beginning of last year, new maids would arrive in Singapore about one month after they were recruited.
But the recruitment process has slowed down because of stricter rules that were imposed by the Indonesian and Philippine governments around the end of last year.
Most of the more than 222,500 domestic workers in Singapore are from these two countries.
Officials from Indonesia and the Philippines want to ensure that maids are not paying high recruitment fees and will receive at least the minimum wage imposed by their governments.
The Indonesian government wants its domestic workers to be paid at least $500 a month, while the Philippine government states that Filipino maids have to be paid at least US$400 (S$540) every month.
Keen to take advantage of this surge in demand, hundreds of maids are flocking to Far East Shopping Centre and Lucky Plaza in Orchard Road every Sunday, as many transfer maid agencies are located there.
Noted Mrs Daisy Lopez, who owns maid agency WorkHome Personnel at Far East Shopping Centre: "I am also getting Facebook messages from maids to look for new employers for them."
Many transfer maids are at the end of their two-year contracts. They can work for new bosses if their previous employers sign a Ministry of Manpower consent form.