SINGAPORE - More foreign maids will be able to enter Singapore from Nov 1 but only those who are vaccinated will be considered for approval, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng.
In a written reply to parliamentary questions on Tuesday (Oct 5), Mr Tan said the Government will accept new entry applications for vaccinated foreign maids from Oct 15.
Priority, he added, will continue to be given to homes with urgent and challenging caregiving needs, especially those with sick and elderly family members as well as those with special needs.
Mr Tan was responding to Workers' Party MP Dennis Tan (Hougang), who had asked if the Government is planning to take urgent steps to get more maids into Singapore, and help cut waiting time for families with critical caregiving needs.
He said: "As entry approvals continue to be limited for public health reasons, it could take around three to six months before their migrant domestic workers can enter, depending on the Covid-19 situation at source and locally.
"If the situation improves in the region, we can approve more to enter."
Mr Tan added that the Manpower Ministry (MOM) has taken steps to allow maids whose entry approvals were postponed in May to enter the country before the end of the year.
The Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) or AEAS also started a pilot programme four months ago to help meet the demand for foreign maids.
Working with overseas business partners, it put in place additional safe management measures for maids in their home countries before they can enter Singapore.
Maids from the Philippines and Indonesia have entered Singapore under this initiative since it began in July.
Homes that need maids urgently can tap on the programme, which has been effective in guarding against maids infected with Covid-19 slipping into the country.
Mr Tan said: "The AEAS and its partner employment agencies are doing their best to scale up the pilot, as well as to expand the programme to include migrant domestic workers from other countries.
"However, they will need time to find suitable business partners to facilitate the ground processes in overseas countries and ensure that it remains effective at minimising importation risk."
Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) asked if there was an increase over the past year in the number of maids requesting transfers before their contract ended.
She also asked if the authorities would consider tightening regulations to protect employers who had caregiving needs, for instance, in cases where maids might quit the job for "frivolous reasons".
Mr Tan said numbers for the monthly transfer of maids to new employers has remained stable in the past year.
MOM, he added, is planning to roll out a scheme early next year that will require employment agencies to provide an option to refund employers at least half of their service fees if a maid quits in the first six months.
People who are planning to hire a maid can also check her employment history, including if she fits the key requirements they are looking for, and the reasons for leaving the last job, Mr Tan said.
"We understand the difficulties employers go through if a migrant domestic worker seeks a transfer before the end of the contract," he added.
MOM in September said the cost of a maid's stay-home notice and Covid-19 tests should be shared between employers if the maid switches homes within a year.
Mr Tan said MOM will keep working on getting more maids into Singapore within the limits of public health safeguards set by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force.