Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower to Parliamentary Question on cases of underaged domestic helpers and actions taken against errant agencies
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1281 OF 2018 FOR THE SITTING ON 06 AUGUST 2018
QUESTION NO. 937 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: MR MELVIN YONG YIK CHYE
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what is the number of cases of underage domestic helpers for the past five years; (b) what are the actions taken against the errant agencies; and (c) what is the Ministry’s plan to prevent underage domestic helpers working in Singapore.
In the past five years, 130 Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) per year or 6 FDWs per 10,000 FDWs in Singapore were found to be younger than the age requirement of at least 23 years.
2. MOM adopts a multi-layered approach to prevent underaged FDWs from working in Singapore. First, it is the responsibility of employment agencies (EAs) to ensure that the FDWs they have sourced meet the age requirement. The agencies are required to do upstream checks on the FDWs before they are deployed to Singapore. Action will be taken against EAs that fail to do so. Since 2013, MOM has taken action against over a hundred EAs. We meted out penalties ranging from warnings, demerit points and forfeiture of their security deposit, to prosecution for flagrant cases. Recently, two EAs were prosecuted and convicted, and fined the maximum $5,000 each. Their licences will also be revoked.
3. In addition to these measures, MOM makes it a point to highlight the minimum age requirement to FDWs before their arrival in Singapore through the In-Principle Approval letter sent to all FDWs, as well as through the compulsory Settling-In Programme (SIP) for first-time FDWs. During the programme, FDWs are warned of the consequences they face should they be found to be underaged. They are also given the chance to come forward if they are under 23 years old. Those who own up are assured of passage home and they will be allowed back to Singapore to work after they turn 23. On top of these steps, MOM also conducts visual checks during the SIP and work pass card registration. FDWs who flout the minimum age requirement will be permanently debarred from working in Singapore.
4. MOM urges employers to be vigilant of the FDWs’ age. Putting their elderly or children in the care of an underaged FDW poses significant risks. Employers are advised to report to MOM if they suspect that their FDW is underaged.
5. Lastly, as the passport remains the primary document for identification and age verification, it is important that the authorities in source countries step up efforts to improve the accuracy of their official documents. Therefore, when we uncover cases of FDWs with inaccurate ages, we will provide such information to source country Governments.