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Measures Taken for Reducing Maid Abuse in Singapore sample essay

There are approximately 150,000 migrant domestic workers (MDW) in Singapore and many of them suffer forms of abuse – physical and sexual violence, food deprivation, confinement in workplace and late or non-payment of salary. In 2011, an estimated 4000 MDWs ran away from their employers’ home, many of them frustrated, overworked and underpaid. (TWC2, 2011)

The Singapore law doesn’t stipulate a minimum wage or mandatory rest days in contracts for these domestic workers. Instead, many initiatives have been put in place to protect the interests of these workers. (Agence France Presse, 2003)

From January 2005, workers seeking to enter Singapore as MDWs have to be at least 23 years of age and have completed a minimum 8 years of formal education. They must also sit for an entry test in English to validate the worker’s linguistic, numerical and practical abilities.

These measures are aimed at improving the overall quality of workers who will be working in Singapore households in an effort to promote harmonious working relationships with their employers. These workers will also be in a stronger position to understand their rights and seek protection or recourse under Singapore law should they suffer any form of abuse or ill treatment.

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also put in place training courses to educate employers. Starting from April 2004, first time employers of MDWs have to attend a compulsory Employers Orientation Program, which educates employers on their obligations towards these workers. It underlines good employment practices to promote mutual respect between both parties.

A new accreditation system has also been put in place to regulate employment agencies, which provide recruitment and placement services of these MDWs from June 2004. The accreditation requirements include proper orientation of MDWs, employer education in regards to their obligations towards the welfare of MDWs and the facilitation of written employment contracts between MDWs and their employers. Failure to achieve this accreditation will result in agency’s license being revoked.

While these measures work towards protecting MDWs interests and well being, the challenge to make sure agencies and employers follows suit still exists. There are still cases of physical abuse reported and many more go undetected and unreported even though the government has stiffened penalties for acts of abuse against MDWs. Moreover, there are currently no regulations on fees charged by these agencies resulting in excessive fees being paid by MDWs to secure employment in Singapore, some of whom receive no salary for up to a year just to pay off these fees. (HRW, pg 48-51) Regulations should be passed to limit the extent these fees are being charged to MDWs.

Singapore’s government also charges employers of MDWs a monthly levy of S$345 on top of a bond of $5000 per worker. This tax allows the Singapore government to collect approximately $400m each year, of which very little goes towards improving support services for these workers. The government should in turn use these taxes to help to create awareness of maid abuse or to pass it on to the various Volunteer Welfare Organisations such as Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics and Transient Workers Count Too to work on prevention of maid abuse. It is MOM’s requirement that the maid go for a medical check up every six months. Beside this measure, they could also conduct regular spot check on the maid, just like what they done for the foreign construction workers to check on safety measurements.

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