More than 20,000 households using part-time cleaning services as interest grows

Of the 20,000 households using these services, about 27 per cent had previously engaged migrant domestic workers. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: PEXELS

SINGAPORE - More than 20,000 households in Singapore are currently estimated to be engaging part-time cleaning help, facilitated by a growing pool of service providers.

These households are served by companies under the Household Services Scheme (HSS), which allows for the hiring of migrant workers to provide part-time domestic services.

There are 134 companies under the scheme, an increase from 76 in 2021, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng noted in a written parliamentary reply on Oct 4.

Of the 20,000 households using these services, about 27 per cent had previously engaged migrant domestic workers, according to a market poll, added Dr Tan.

"While households with heavier domestic and caregiving needs may still need migrant domestic helpers, households with lighter needs may enjoy cost savings by engaging HSS services on a part-time basis instead," he said.

A weekly four-hour home cleaning package can range anywhere from $300 to $450 a month, while a full-time maid costs about $450 to $650 a month to employ, excluding levy.

Apart from home cleaning, HSS workers are allowed to offer services such as grocery shopping, car washing and pet-sitting.

Dr Tan said his ministry is looking at broadening the scope of the scheme to include basic child-minding and elder-minding services to encourage more households to consider using HSS services.

The scheme, which started as a pilot in 2017 with 15 companies, was made permanent in September 2021 following feedback and increased demand.

Unlike migrant domestic helpers who live with their employers, these workers from HSS companies can be deployed to multiple houses and their accommodation is provided by their companies.

HSS firms are currently allowed to hire female workers from Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Mr Rio Goh, director of Ministry of Clean, which charges between $380 and $420 per month for weekly four-hour sessions, has around 60 workers.

They clean around 80 houses a day, with regular customers forming the bulk of demand.

"Almost 10 years ago, our customers were mostly expats. Today, there's a new trend - around 80 per cent of our customers are locals and are mostly young families with children or are two working adults," said Mr Goh.

Secretary Bernadette Ng, 64, who has engaged part-time cleaners from various agencies over the past six years, said a fortnightly arrangement works out for her family of three and one dog.

"I was managing fine but sometimes work gets in the way, so having part-time help is a boon for me. There was a bit of hesitancy in the beginning, but the current helper has been coming to our house for the past three years, and we've all got to know her quite well," she added.

A newer HSS player is social enterprise One Heart Cleaning, which employs former offenders and people with disabilities for commercial or ad-hoc professional cleaning jobs.

Director Lim Tze Wei said the company also engages workers from Myanmar under the HSS, charging between $340 and $420 per month for weekly four-hour sessions.

Mr Lim said the main challenge of keeping up with demand is finding affordable rental Housing Board flats to house workers.

Mr Roy Toh, founder of Peoplicity, which employs five workers, said he will consider expanding services to include child-minding and elder-minding when the green light comes from MOM.

"The only issue is how am I going to price these services? Unlike home cleaning, elder-minding is more personal and will likely need more hours and have to be a longer-term arrangement," he added.

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