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Have helper, so dump it on her

CALL FOR RESPECT: Mr Shanmugam sparked a discussion on the treatment of domestic workers with his Facebook post.


    May 19, 2014

    Have helper, so dump it on her

    SLINGING a schoolbag over one shoulder and carrying a big bag of groceries in another hand, a domestic helper tried to keep up with her employer's daughter, who was holding an umbrella.

    It had just stopped raining and soon that umbrella too was passed on to the helper, who now carried three items as the girl walked on with her hands free.

    This sight along Cavenagh Road caught the attention of Law Minister K. Shanmugam who took to Facebook, asking parents to give some thought to the role they play in ensuring that their children treat others with compassion and kindness.

    "In Singapore we are lucky that so many of our households have been able to employ domestic help. But do we teach our children to treat our helpers with respect, compassion?" he asked.

    The post garnered over 1,500 shares and sparked off a discussion on the treatment of domestic helpers and the values of young people here.

    Many pointed the finger at parents for their lack of guidance, resulting in a generation of spoilt children who feel entitled.

    President of human rights group Maruah, Braema Mathi, said the fundamental value that needs to be passed on is respect for the domestic helper.

    "We are very close to seeing domestic workers as was back in the yesteryear, as servants. But they aren't anymore, they are offering a service," she said.

    Ms Mathi said that parents have to pass on proper values early, adding that "it is sad some parents are not conscious of their own role as transmitters of the value system".

    The principal of Ang Mo Kio Secondary School, Abdul Mannan, urged parents to work with schools to make their children more independent. He also noted that the changing expectations of parents could be fuelling such behaviour.

    "They are more focused on their children achieving results rather than on the softer skills," he said.

    Carol Balhetchet, senior director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, said many youth have the mindset that "I pay you for something and you owe me", and expect their helpers to be at their beck and call just because they are being paid a wage.

    But often, this is not a case of a lack of compassion or empathy that is causing such behaviour among the youth, but of taking things for granted, she said.

    One young person thought nothing of making her domestic helper carry her things until it was pointed out that she was treating her employee like a slave. "They just don't think about it until someone brings it up," said Dr Balhetchet.

    She also noted that the current generation of youth are not a group to be nagged at, but rather one to influence by example.

    "If you as a parent are a kind and compassionate person, it becomes a way of life and so it will be, too, for your children," said Dr Balhetchet.