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Support network for migrant domestic workers strengthened over the years

  • The Straits Times (31 Aug 2022): "Ensure that those who can’t cope can get help early"

Support networks for domestic helpers strengthened over the years - The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2022

We thank Mr Mohamad Farid Harunal Rashid for his letter, “Ensure that maids who can’t cope can get help early” (Aug 31). The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) does not condone acts of ill-treatment by or to migrant domestic workers (MDWs).

MOM has strengthened support networks for MDWs over the years. Since April 2021, we have started house visits to engage some MDWs and their employers directly.

Our officers are trained to look out for indicators of stress and discuss any issues raised with employers so that they can be adequately addressed.

Together with the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) under the National Trades Union Congress, MOM has launched two CDEConnect centres. The centres provide convenience for MDWs and their employers to walk in and seek advice on employment issues. The centres conduct compulsory interviews for all first-time MDWs to ensure they adapt well to their new role.

In addition, within three months of the MDW’s placement, employment agencies must conduct a post-placement check. All newly arrived MDWs also attend the Settling-In Programme, where they are taught how to work safely and carry out their duties responsibly.

Furthermore, MOM works with non-governmental organisations to extend our support measures.

For example, CDE and the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training provide face-to-face counselling services, and MDWs who need assistance can call its 24-hour hotline.

A whole-of-society effort is needed to build up the ecosystem of support for MDWs. We encourage MDWs and employers to maintain open and regular communication to resolve any issues amicably.

Tan Shu Xiang
Director, Engagement
Foreign Manpower Management Division
Ministry of Manpower

Ensure that those who can’t cope can get help early - The Straits Times 31 Aug 2022

The report, "Maid grabbed employer's baby's hair to pull her head up, among various acts of assault" (Aug 25), raises some important questions on the best way to ensure the well-being of foreign domestic workers and the people they care for.

Criminal assault of vulnerable persons like young children is reprehensible and deserves the full weight of legal prosecution. Equally, domestic workers clearly want to avoid losing wages and their freedom over mistreating those under their care.

How then can processes be enhanced to prevent such transgressions which benefit no one?

Foreign domestic workers are a vulnerable group. They work long hours in a uniquely stressful job that combines menial tasks with caregiving, which can be tough even for the best of us.

They have threadbare support networks in a foreign land. Their options for modifying the circumstances of their work environment (including switching employers) are limited.

These factors could increase the probability of conflict.

As a society, we could start by being very clear about where getting children to comply with instructions - usually against their will - ends and assault begins.

We need to make it easier for domestic workers to recognise the boundaries of their actions. There should be greater efforts by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), police and civil society to educate them about such limits.

At the same time, support networks for domestic workers should be strengthened should they fall short of expectations or feel overwhelmed.

Moves by the MOM to increase the frequency and number of house visits for first-time foreign domestic workers should be scaled up even further, perhaps with the help of volunteers, to ensure the workers can get help early and quickly if they are not able to cope.

Mohamad Farid Harunal Rashid