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They're human, stop 'selling' them

WARNING TO MAID AGENCIES: The Government has advised agencies that they should not portray maids as "commodities" to be "tested or traded". They should also refrain from having the workers sit outside their offices.


    Jul 17, 2014

    They're human, stop 'selling' them

    SUPER promo rates. On discount.

    But the product on sale is not from the bargain bin. It is someone who could soon help you out at home.

    To put an end to such marketing, the Government has advised agencies that they should not portray foreign domestic workers (FDWs) as "commodities" to be "tested or traded".

    And in another move that could lighten the burden that falls on FDWs when they find jobs here, the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) has proposed cutting the upfront fees that employers pay.

    Its president, K. Jayaprema, told My Paper: "We have sent out a recommendation to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) saying that the upfront fee that employers pay on behalf of the foreign domestic worker should be limited to the local two months' agency fees that is approved by MOM. This will mean they will not heavily be in debt."

    Currently, the placement fees can run into the thousands and is deducted from the FDW's salary every month.

    She also said that the Government's proposal to treat maids with respect would improve the image of the entire industry.

    Agencies have been told not to run advertisements which emphasise cheap fees, promotional rates and discounts.

    They should also refrain from having the foreign domestic workers sit outside their offices.

    This comes after a news report pointed out that maids are being "displayed" and treated as commodities by some agencies here.

    It is also important to take action against such agencies, and to step up on public education, said Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) executive director Jolovan Wham.

    He said: "Many employers don't respect domestic workers. We expect them to be at our beck and call. We see workers who put in 15 hours of work every day."

    John Gee, who does research at migrant worker organisation Transient Workers Count Too, noted: "Singapore compares itself to the most developed nations when it comes to economic progress, and this should also be the case when it comes to how we treat and view foreign domestic workers.

    "In countries like Europe and America, there is a cap on their working hours and they have mandatory days off. Those are the basic standards."

    Mr Gee added: "It's easy to take foreign domestic workers for granted. It's very convenient to have someone to do your washing and cleaning. You can easily sit back and give them more work and think this is the natural order of things."

    MP Zaqy Mohamad, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said that the advisory "sets the tone for us to respect foreign domestic workers here".

    "While it targets employment agencies, we have to look beyond scrutinising them. We also have to treat our workers well - we don't want a culture where we degrade or cheapen what they do."

    An MOM spokesman said that the ministry "proactively audits Singapore employment agencies". Those found to have "acted in a manner detrimental to the interest of domestic workers" may be issued demerit points, and "recalcitrant" ones may have their licences suspended or revoked.