In a recent post, a Redditor shared the encounters of several friends who employ foreign domestic workers (FDW) and stated that their treatment of their helpers is simply horrendous.
“Can I say the treatment of their helpers is simply horrendous? It’s really similar to slave owners yet around others they try to act normal, ” the Redditor, who goes by name “a-wet-sponge” wrote.
“If they are my boss, I will report to MOM and quit on first day!”
Around one in five households currently hires a FDWs, with around 268,500 maids in Singapore in total as of December 2022.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), an average of 270 reports of abuse involving migrant domestic workers (MDWs) were made to the police each year between 2017 and 2020.
Readers may recall the terrifying case of Piang Ngaih Don, a Myanmar FDW who was abused by her employer for nearly 10 months until her death.
During this period, Piang was physically assaulted almost daily, starved of food and rest, and forced to shower and relieve herself with the toilet door open. In the last 12 days of her life, she was also tied to the window grille at night and made to sleep on the floor.
Singapore’s rights group for migrant workers, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), has warned that abuse of FDWs can take many forms, including emotional abuse, despite growing legal protections against more visible forms of sexual or physical abuse.
Redditors shared their observations of how their friends or colleagues mistreating their FDWs
The Redditor’s comment prompted other Reddit users to share their experiences or observations of how their friends or colleagues treated their FDWs.
One of the comments alleged that she had met a French friend who mistreated their FDW by placing her in a kitchen bomb shelter with no window or air conditioning:
Another Redditor shared his frustration with friends and colleagues who justify treating their helpers like slaves by saying that “they are here to work.”
“Maid told to shower using public toilet only”
A comment was shared about a friend who lives in a condo and restricts their maid to only use the public toilet at the pool area for showering:
The basic salary of a full-time domestic helper in Singapore ranges from about S$400 to S$800 per month, which some Redditors had pointed out that it’s horrendous how FDWs are seen as cheap labour and therefore deemed less deserving of fair treatment.
“a-wet-sponge” further shared that a friend’s FDW requested a salary increase due to taking on extra responsibilities.
“But this friend gaslight the employee like crazy, saying something like “if no extra pay cannot do, extra pay then can do?” ”
When asked about the “extra responsibilities” in the FDW’s job scope, the Redditor explained that her primary duty was to take care of one person with a disability, but due to unforeseen circumstances, she now has to take care of an additional person with a disability.
Low salary of FDWs leads to undervaluing and abuse
While some have called for improving the treatment of FDWs, there are also comments defending the access to cheap home help, arguing that it has uplifted the satisfaction of many households in Singapore and helped FDWs “earn money to invest” in their home countries.
A Redditor refutes this argument, stating that the low salary of FDWs leads to undervaluing and abuse.
The fundamental problem, according to the Redditor, is that many Singaporeans do not see FDWs as equals, despite the fact that they are working a job for their employer.
Employer took FDW’s phone
Certain comments delve deeper into the issue of FDWs’ rights, highlighting that some employers tend to restrict their maids from accessing phones.
A Redditor shared an alarming experience from an FDW Facebook page, where employers justify and support the mistreatment of their helpers.
“E.g, employer is applauded that she allows her helper access to phone only 2hours per week. Phone is otherwise kept by the employer for the remaining period.”
One Redditor suggested that the extreme actions some maids take, such as killing or harming their employers, may be a result of their inhumane treatment.
Another user argued that such actions do not excuse cruelty in any form and suggested that FDWs should report any issues with their working conditions to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
“Sometimes the employers take the maid phones and doesn’t allow them to take leave. How to report?” another Redditor questioned.
Under MOM’s “Guideline for employment agencies placing foreign domestic Workers“, stated that the FDW’s mobile phone is her personal property and she has a right to keep it.
Employers and FDWs can set mutually agreed house rules on when to use the mobile phone. However, there is nothing to prevent employers from preventing the use of phone.
An FDWs employer told others to treat FDWs as “how we treat our colleagues or people around us”
However, a Redditor who claimed to be an employer, said she treated their FDW well and considers her as a family member, however, she cannot afford to give her a salary increment due to a recent big pay cut.
“Only those who have helpers will know its very costly. I try to treat her better in other ways but cannot increase pay already, ” the Redditor said, adding that she also worried about her FDW’s health as she is close to 60 years old.
Supporting the Redditor’s call, another user emphasised that FDWs are human beings too and appealed to everyone to treat them with respect and dignity: