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Maids' haunts packed as more get rest days

HANGING OUT: A crowd of maids, most of them having picnics in their own groups, on a Sunday on the pavement area in front of Tong Building, which is next to Lucky Plaza.


    Mar 17, 2014

    Maids' haunts packed as more get rest days

    POPULAR hang-outs for maids have become more crowded over the past year, as more domestic helpers get days off.

    Maids and business owners told The Straits Times that Lucky Plaza and City Plaza are seeing more Sunday visitors in recent months, as are other open spaces.

    "Last time, only the front of City Plaza was crowded; now, all the sides are too," said Ms Kuswati, an Indonesian maid who goes by only one name.

    A rule mandating one day off every week or payment in lieu kicked in a year ago and applies to all new and renewed maid contracts.

    Ms Maricel Cabauatan, 31, said that the queues to remit money at Lucky Plaza have also become longer since the start of this year - from two or three hours, to four.

    More maids are heading to the Botanic Gardens for picnics and birthday parties. The Gardens' director, Mr Nigel Taylor, said he noticed this trend picking up in the last two years.

    "It's been happening on such a scale that the picnicking has overflowed onto the paths and occupies public buildings to the scale of excluding other people," he said. The Botanic Gardens encourages maids to have picnics on the lawns.

    But the higher footfall has not translated into higher returns for some businesses.

    At City Plaza, shipping service Valutaayu-Yan Cargo said that although there are more maids, they are also younger and do not have as many items to send home.

    Costlier rent and stiffer competition have eaten into sales, said Mrs Dhayalyn Koh, manager of convenience shop Negrosanon Trading at Lucky Plaza.

    At Peninsula Plaza, where betel nuts and Myanmar food attract maids and workers, traffic has actually waned in recent years.

    Internet cafe owner Tang Kok Eng said it was down to the tightening of labour laws which has made it harder for workers to get work passes renewed.

    "The levies are higher now," he said. "People also can get Internet on their phones so maybe they don't need to come here."

    Shoppers, such as Ms Gladys Tan, 23, said the sea of people does not bother them. "They are usually outside the mall having picnics so it's quite a normal crowd inside," said the civil servant, who visits a salon at City Plaza around once a month.