Overseas and Local Maids, Nannies and Caregivers

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Maids Work


The headline you see to the left is from today’s Straits Times and I couldn’t agree more with it.

A maid, or foreign domestic worker’s life here can be tough. Apart from the low wages and occasional shabby treatment from some employers, it is not easy to leave your own family, and then live cheek by jowl with another family which has completely different cultural values. Our maids work long hours and have very little time to themselves, or to spend socialising with friends.

Our household has employed a number of maids over the years and I really think there has to be a better way to solve the problem of getting nanny care, domestic chores, baby sitting and elder care than importing young girls, under-paying them, over-working them and under-appreciating them.

Our first maid was from Indonesia, and she was really wonderful. She developed a strong emotional attachment to our newly born daughter and was as careful and as conscientious as any person could be. She had decided to look for a maid’s job overseas because she wanted to be able to provide a good education for her sons so that they could escape the poverty trap back home.

They had a farm, but it was subsistence only. Every month she sent the lion’s share of her salary back home and I still remember her weeping after she learnt that her first son had dropped out of school to work on the farm.

The mould was set however, and after her contract with us she went home for a brief spell and then was off to Hong Kong where the salaries are much higher and the labour laws more strident.

Live In Help1Here is a quote from the Government on what it expect the trend to be:

Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) provide care-giving support for families with elderly and children. Having FDWs to assist with care-giving duties allows seniors to continue living in a familiar environment with their families and loved ones around them as well as allow Singaporeans, especially women, to enter or remain in the workforce. With an expected increase in the number of resident households with young and/ or elderly, as well as an increase in number of households where both spouses are working, demand for FDWs could rise from 198,000 FDWs in 2011 to 300,000 FDWs by 2030.

Wow. So basically we can expect the number of maids in Singapore to increase by about 30%.

there were some great suggestions from the public on ways to help solve the looming problem. One from Best Home Employment Agency suggested allowing agents to to recruit maids who are provided accommodation by the employment agency but are sent off each day to the various homes. It’s a fantastic idea, not only because of the lower cost (I’m not sure how this would be achieved), but because of the greater flexibility. Presumably maids, nannies and babysitters AND the families, would be given greater flexibility in the working hours. Because the maids would be reporting back to their hostel every evening, their welfare could be better monitored by their agency. Maids that need emergency leave, could be temporarily replaced by “floating” transfer maids.

Another great suggestion, and one that is the reason for the existence of this website is to encourage more Singaporean workers to work as part-time domestic helpers. It can be a relative stress-free solution as the workers are Singaporean, there are no cultural challenges to overcome. The maid or nanny can go home at the end of each day, and the extra income can easily pay for an overseas holiday at the end of the year. Perfect, right?

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