President of non-profit organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) Deborah Desloge Fordyce proposed that any Key Performance Index (KPI) requirements instituted for domestic workers should be matched with adequate rights and protections.
In a letter published on Straits Times (Match KPIs for maids with rights, protections, 20 September), Ms Fordyce was responding to a previous letter by a Mr Lawrence Loh (Maids should have KPIs too, 17 September) who suggested that foreign domestic workers (FDW) should have KPIs to ensure better performance and manage expectations of both the domestic worker and their employers.
Mr Loh has said that even the lowliest workers in Singapore have a set KPI, noting that “in working life, a worker who falls short of his KPIs is subjected to reprimand, counselling, forgone bonus, promotion freeze, and even dismissal.”
He posited that FDWs cannot be treated differently and that this system should be “emphasised during the settling-in programme” before they are placed with a family in Singapore.
In her response, Ms Fordyce pointed out that domestic workers are in fact treated differently. One example she gave was that they are isolated in their place of employment in a way that no local workers are.
But she added that TWC2 are in favour of domestic workers having obligations and entitlements comparable to those of other workers. She added, “Any requirement that they should have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to fulfil should be matched by an assertion of rights and protections that are enjoyed by other workers, including a cap on working hours, weekly days off, freedom of communication, an ability to leave an employers’ premises during time off, and a real possibility of leaving an employer whom they feel does not treat them properly – rights that, as Mr Loh states, “even the most lowly” of local workers have.”
Ms Fordyce then suggested that those could be viewed as KPIs for employers and Singapore as a society.
In his letter, Mr Loh brought up the issue of misrepresentation, specifically that FDWs are encouraged by agents to lie on their biodata about their skills which then leads to false expectations and disappointment on the part of the employers.
Ms Fordyce responded, “TWC2 believes that it is wrong for recruiters and unscrupulous agents to encourage would-be domestic workers to misrepresent their experience and training,” adding that it honesty would be encouraged by policies and practices that empower domestic workers to speak up.
Ms Fordyce explained that sometimes deceptive behaviour is a defence mechanism when the domestic workers is in fear of being scolded or physically abused, or that her services will be terminated and she would be sent home destitute as a result of recruitment fees.
The key here is to create an environment where domestic work is more highly valued, whether it is done by locals or migrant workers, said Ms Fordyce, explaining that we should treat domestic workers to the same sort of standards we would wish for ourselves if we were in their position.