Need for Foreign Domestic Workers' (FDW) Dorm to be looked into
- Lianhe Zaobao, 10 October 2008
Please refer to the letter “Dormitories for foreign maids urgently needed” (23 Sep 2008) in which the writer highlighted the need for temporary housing for foreign domestic workers (FDWs) before their placement with Singapore employers.
2. It is not illegal for employment agents (EAs) to house FDWs during transitional periods such as when the FDWs are awaiting placement with employers or are waiting to be transferred to other employers. However, EAs must provide acceptable accommodation for FDWs under their care (eg. asking the FDW to sleep in the kitchen is not acceptable)
3. Most EAs are able to comply with the requirement to provide acceptable accommodation. In the past year, only one EA had its licence revoked for failing to provide acceptable accommodation.
4. A site at 324A Keramat Road has been approved for use as a dormitory for foreign domestic workers. The Singapore Land Authority awarded the tender to LHN Management Services Pte Ltd and the operator is in the midst of preparing the facility. Once operational, the facility will provide an additional housing option for EAs to house FDWs.
5. The Government will review the need for more dormitories for FDWs after the facility at Keramat Road is in operation, taking into account feedback from the relevant stakeholders as well as other factors such as land use considerations.
Dormitories for foreign maids urgently needed
- Lianhe Zaobao, 23 September 2008
It was from the recent news reports on Minister for National Development (MND) Mr Mah Bow Tan that I was aware that there are actually 577,000 foreign workers in Singapore, and this figure did not include the 180,000 foreign maids.
The number of foreign workers here had almost doubled in recent years and the housing of foreign workers is an urgent issue that needs to be resolved. I believe that most Singaporeans would also support the relevant authority's emphasis on the issue.
But, at the same time, there is also a huge gap in the (supply and demand of) housing for foreign maids and this had not received the attention of Singaporeans and the relevant authority.
Under normal circumstance, the foreign maids would live together with their employers and there would be no issue of illegal housing. However, the issue of illegal housing would arise under special situations or when ‘problematic' foreign maids live with their respective agencies. (Ministry of Manpower does not oppose to this, but the other authorities view this as illegal).
In addition, according to relevant regulations, newly arrived foreign maids are required to undergo health checks and relevant tests and during this period, the maid agency would also be in charge of the maids' food and housing. (It may seem that there is nothing wrong with this but some maid agencies had their permits revoked because of this.)
According to HDB, URA and JTC Corporation regulations, this would be illegal unless a boarding house, dormitory or quarter permit had been obtained, and given that the venue is not overcrowded. If we go by this regulation, there would be countless people who had violated the law. Since Ministry of Manpower (MOM) implemented the new test system for maids in April 2005, almost all the registered maid agencies here had inevitably broken this regulation.
There are currently, 500 to 600 maid agencies in Singapore today, if we assume that 8,000 new maids arrive in Singapore every month, every agency here would have to take care of the housing needs of about 16 maids every month, excluding maids that require housing due to ‘special circumstances'. As there are no formal foreign maids' dormitories here, most agencies would let these maids stay with their family for the time being, but this would be against the regulations of the several abovementioned authorities, and they had to carry out such arrangements secretly.
I felt that legally registered maid agencies should not be operating in a ‘half-legal manner' and try to survive based on luck, or even pay the price of having their permit revoked or deposit confiscated. Moreover, this situation is due to the implementation of the new regulations, which resulted in a sharp rise in the number of foreign maids who are unable to stay with their employers.
I hope that relevant authorities such as URA, JTC Corporation, MOM, SCDF and MND could work together to come up with a plan to solve the issue of temporary housing for foreign maids. Otherwise, this would become a stumbling block to the development for the maid agency industry.
I suggest that we could follow the operation model of low-cost carriers and set up some ‘low-cost foreign maid dormitories', so that there would be clear and legal ways for the agencies to house these maids during the transitional period.