Nominated Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Kok Heng Leun had earlier asked the Minister for Manpower at Parliament about statistics on abused foreign domestic workers and those who abuse people whom they take care of, in Singapore for each year from 2014 to 2015.
He asked the following questions:
- What is the number of foreign domestic helpers who have been abused during employment and abusing the people they are caring for respectively.
- What is the number of helpers who have no day-off monthly or only one or two days off monthly.
In a written answer on its newsroom, Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower (MOM), answered that for abuse cases involving FDWs, the police have investigated all cases where criminal offences have been reported, whether FDWs are victims or offenders.
In 2014 and 2015, there were about 30 cases per year involving FDWs as victims, where after investigations, the employer or members of employer’s household were prosecuted or given warnings in lieu of prosecution.
Mr Lim also answered that in 2014 and 2015, about 40 FDWs per year were arrested by the Police, on suspicion of abusing their wards. A proportion of these arrest cases eventually resulted in prosecution or warning in lieu of prosecution.
However, the minister did not answer the 2nd question in his written reply. The Minister wrote that the ministry does not track the number of rest days that the FDWs are given.
The Minister noted that under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations, an employer has to grant a weekly rest day to the FDW or compensate the FDW in lieu of the rest day if there is mutual agreement. He also reiterated that all employers are expected to treat FDWs with care and respect.
On 22 February, answering to the suggestions raised by Mrs Sakina Yusuf Kagda (‘Regular monitoring of maid welfare needed’), the MOM stated that it takes the well-being of FDWs seriously; many of the suggestions were already in place.
MOM stressed that there are strict laws clearly laying out the responsibilities of employers and employment agencies towards the well-being of FDWs, such as ensuring they have adequate food and rest.
The ministry takes allegations of FDWs’ mistreatment seriously and thoroughly investigates such reports. Anyone who has violated the laws is taken to task and penalties include fines, jail terms and permanently barring such employers from hiring FDWs.
The ministry also states that it is mandatory for all new FDWs to attend a Settling-In Programme where they are educated on their rights and responsibilities.
The FDWs are also informed of various assistance channels, including a dedicated MOM FDW hotline.
MOM states that it also conduct one-on-one interviews with close to 3,000 first-time FDWs each year to ensure they are settling in well. On 9 March 2016 CNA reported that MOM is introducing a new grading scheme and customer ratings for employment agencies that place FDWs. The ministry said the initiatives are aimed at improving the professionalism and service standards of these agencies,.
However, a veteran social worker said to TOC that such measures are which do little to change the systemic flaws that are responsible for the misery of thousands of domestic workers.
“The interviews may not take into consideration the fact that many of the workers may be scared of the officer interviewing them. Even if there are problems, they are afraid of losing their jobs or getting into trouble with their recruiters. So they prefer to stay silent.” said the social worker.
Some of the high-profile cases that were reported in 2016 in the news:
- A couple accused of starving their maid over 15 months,
- Boss jailed for maid abuse,
- The death of a Myanmar domestic helper in Bisahan,
- Mum and daughter jailed for abusing maid.
On July this year, The Diplomat reported that conditions for domestic workers in Singapore are improving, but many still face abuse and exploitation.