There are about 235ooo female domestic helpers in Singapore, which made it about one for every five households in the country. The majority of the domestic helpers are mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines; smaller numbers come from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, India, Thailand, and Bangladesh. Myanmar domestic helpers have seen a steady increase in numbers over the years.
These women from these countries want to seek employment as domestic helpers in Singapore because most are trying to support their families. Their earnings go towards paying for the education of children, brothers and sisters, buying land, extending a family home or simply enabling a family to pay its bills. A few domestic helpers manage to save up money towards starting a small business when they return home.
The Singapore domestic helpers are able to earn more money in Singapore than in their own countries, thanks to its level of economic development. But this should not be seen as a reason to pay them little as Singapore employers are able to go out and earn thanks to having a Singapore domestic helper at home to take care of dependents and housework.
Domestic worker refers to any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship, in or for a household. What are the duties of the domestic helpers in Singapore? Hong Kong has defined domestic duties as falling under five broad categories – household chores, cooking, babysitting, child-minding and looking after aged persons in the household.
However, some domestic helpers are asked to perform other duties beyond the above job scope and thus overloaded with work that seems to never end.
If a Singapore domestic helper feels that her employment conditions are unfair, it should be made easy for her to change employers without returning to her country first. If employers cannot ship maids home at will, it will address the power imbalance between domestic helpers and families here
Letting domestic helpers live- out can also help manage their workload. The problem of workload is largely caused by the fact that domestic helpers are live-in and hence expected by some employers to always be on duty.
Many accept high workloads for fear of the consequences of refusal – which could include being sent home without completing their contract. If domestic helpers believe they have reasonable options in the Singapore market, they will be more capable of resisting unreasonable demands, and employers also will realise that they cannot push their helpers too hard.
And if domestic helpers in Singapore have an avenue to go to for help or to complain, then perhaps employers will lay off the unreasonable demands.
Until then, what the relevant authority in Singapore can do is draw a red line under some unreasonable demands and have a blacklist of chores that domestic workers shouldn’t have to do and a list of chores that need some training to attempt.