Singapore must do more to draw foreign maids here

Ms Michelle Delos Santos Macaraeg (at the wok), 36, and her employer's son, Mr Darren Lee (right), 26, won the cooking competition.
Ms Michelle Delos Santos Macaraeg (at the wok), 36, and her employer's son, Mr Darren Lee (right), 26, won the cooking competition. PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

With more than 300,000 foreign maids needed in Singapore by 2030, the country has to step up its game if it wants to meet this projected demand, said Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) chairman Yeo Guat Kwang yesterday.

Mr Yeo said: "We now face more challenges because other countries like Japan and Taiwan have also opened up to employ foreign domestic workers. It is important for us to ensure that Singapore remains a choice destination for workers in the region."

He was speaking to a crowd at a cooking competition organised by Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao and maid employment agency Nation at Suntec City Convention Centre.

Five employers and their maids paired up to create healthy dishes in an hour-long cookout.

Mr Yeo said the contest showed the importance of cultivating a good working relationship through effective communication.

He also urged the industry to adopt fairer employment practices and offer pathways for maids to learn new skills so Singapore remains an attractive place for them.

To this end, the CDE is working with stakeholders to enhance insurance coverage, transparency in employment agency fees and the ability of maids to obtain Workforce Skills Qualifications when they first arrive in Singapore.

He also highlighted CDE's push to encourage employers to use electronic payment, such as interbank Giro, to credit salaries directly to the maids' bank accounts.

Currently, banks charge a monthly fee of around $2 to customers who do not keep a minimum daily amount in their accounts. This is often the case with domestic workers, who prefer to wire the money back home as soon as they receive their pay.

Mr Yeo said: "We are now working closely with one of the local banks to waive some of these fee requirements."

Details of electronic payment of maids' salaries will be announced soon, he added. This will help avoid salary disputes between employers and maids. Last year, more than half of the 600 complaints CDE received were due to such disputes.

"When we try to investigate, the employer will pull out paper documents as proof. But some employers may have forced their domestic workers to sign off on these receipts," said Mr Yeo, who added that there will be no such ambiguity with electronic payments.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline Singapore must do more to draw foreign maids here. Subscribe