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MOM statement on Research Across Borders study

Research Across Borders study misleading; most domestic workers satisfied working here

  1. The study by Research Across Borders, “Bonded to the system”, painted a misleading picture of the employment of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore.
  2. The study used an overly simplistic interpretation of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) indicators of labour exploitation.
  3. The study did not consider the unique nature of domestic work when interpreting the indicators. For example, it defined FDWs’ working hours without taking into consideration the fact that work and personal time in the context of domestic work cannot be easily differentiated. It also applied “isolation” and “confinement” to include situations such as when an FDW needs to seek her employer’s permission to leave the house, is required to return before midnight on her rest day, or not given her own set of house keys. Such an interpretation of “isolation” and “confinement” is improper, as it has not taken into the consideration the employers’ responsibility for the safety and well-being of both the FDW and family members, especially the young and the aged who require the care of the FDW.

    Majority of FDWs satisfied with working in Singapore
  4. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) conducts regular surveys to better understand the employment conditions and well-being of FDWs here. Our 2015 survey of 1,000 FDWs found that:
  • 97 per cent were satisfied working in Singapore
  • 76 per cent of respondents intended to continue working in Singapore upon completion of current contract
  • 79 per cent would recommend Singapore as a place to work to their friends and family
  • 97 per cent of FDWs indicated that their workload was either just right, or they could handle more.
  1. We also interview more than 3,000 new FDWs per year after their first few months of working here. More than 95 per cent indicated that their workload was manageable, and did not raise any well-being issues.

    FDWs are protected under our laws
  2. Domestic workers, including FDWs, are not covered by the Employment Act due to the unique nature of their work arrangement. However, this does not mean that FDWs are not protected.
  3. Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), employers are required to ensure prompt payment of salaries, provision of proper food, rest days or compensation in lieu of, accommodation, medical care, and safe working conditions for their FDWs. These are laws and not guidelines. Employers who violate the laws face stiff fines, jail terms, and can be banned from hiring FDWs in future. Under the Penal Code, employers who commit offences against their FDWs face penalties of one and a half times the usual punishment.

    Continuous enhancement of FDW measures
  4. Over the years, we have strengthened the measures to improve FDW well-being. Key measures include:
  • 2011:
    • Amended the Employment Agencies Act to cap the fees employment agencies can charge to FDWs, and to impose higher penalties for unlicensed and errant employment agencies
  • 2012:
    • Increased maximum penalties for breaches of the EFMA
    • Introduced Settling-in Programme for new FDWs to know their rights and responsibilities
    • Tightened safety requirements to ensure the safety of FDWs in their work
  • 2013:
    • Introduced mandatory weekly rest days or compensation-in-lieu
  • 2015:
    • Enhanced In-principle Approval Letter to include key employment terms such as salary, number of rest days, and agency fees in their native languages
  • 2017:
    • Increased the minimum sum assured under FDWs’ Personal Accident Insurance from $40,000 to $60,000
  1. Our efforts to safeguard the well-being of FDWs will be a continuous one. MOM has and will continue to work with our social partners to enhance our support framework to ensure fair and proper treatment of our FDWs.
Last Updated: 02 December 2017