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Speech at 6th Foreign Domestic Workers Day Celebrations

Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower , Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre

Mr Seah Seng Choon
President, Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST)

Dr Intan Azura Binte Mokhtar
Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC

Excellencies and dignitaries from the embassies

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

  1. A very good afternoon to all of you. Today, I am very happy to be wearing this shirt like many of you here that signifies a close partnership between the government, the people sector and the private sector. This afternoon is indeed a very memorable occasion to celebrate the Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) Day.
  2. I would like to thank FAST, AEAS and their partner organisations for organising this meaningful event. This is our 6th FDW day celebration and it appears to be growing bigger and stronger in terms of the number of participants and the activities organised. I was told that today’s event has attracted over 6,000 attendees, more than 3 times the number when it was first introduced 6 years ago in 2010. This is testament to the growing support by our employers and the community for the important contributions of FDWs to Singapore and Singaporeans.
  3. I would like to take this opportunity to wish FAST a happy 10th anniversary. Happy Birthday! FAST has made significant contributions towards building and improving the lives of FDWs in Singapore and I believe that many of you in the audience would have benefited from the work and the services offered by FAST and its staff. Let me just list a sample of the achievements for FAST since their set-up 10 years ago. FAST has offered and conducted subsidised training for 66,000 FDWs; it has also received close to 4,000 calls to its 24-hr FDW hotline; FAST has also cultivated over 200 FDW befrienders who now help ease the new FDWs to settle down in Singapore and built a FDW Clubhouse with over 1,000 activities. This clubhouse has more than 3,500 members. This impressive work has helped FAST achieve the Institute of Public Character (or IPC) status recently as announced by FAST’s president, Mr Seah. To all the partners and donors out there, I would strongly encourage you to continue to give your strong support to FAST so that it will be able to grow strongly and organise more activities going forward.

    Contributions of FDWs
  4. Our joint celebration of FDW Day is especially meaningful as this day recognises the important contributions made by our FDWs in Singapore, and their work and contributions have indeed improve the quality of life of many Singaporeans families. We all agree that FDWs play a very important role in our families. Our FDWs help us to look after our house, take care of our elderly, and also nurture our children. As housekeeper, caregiver and friend, FDWs help us to juggle our careers and family commitments, and give Singaporeans more time to pursue their hobbies and passions.
  5. I also understand that to leave loved ones behind to take on a job in a foreign country cannot have been easier. I can only imagine the strength and sacrifices many of you in the audience undertook to seek a better future in a foreign country for your family members. On behalf of Singaporean employers, I would like to say a big thank you to all of you and would like to invite all of you here to join me in extending our appreciation to the foreign domestic workers for making Singapore a very warm and caring home for all. Give yourself a round of applause. You have done a lot to improve the lives of the families in Singapore.

    The employer-FDW relationship
  6. Many employers and FDWs here today have built very warm ties but we are all too aware that successful working relationships are not easy to develop. They do not just happen overnight or by chance. It takes patience and understanding on both sides – the employers and the FDWs and more importantly, mutual respect, communication and a willingness to compromise and accommodate in order to build a successful relationship.
  7. In fact, some of the nominees for the FDW of the Year and Employer of the Year did not find it easy in the early stages of their relationships. For example, FDW of the year nominee Rupa Ranjanee could not speak English and had to use hand gestures to communicate with her employer when she first came to Singapore 26 years ago. Rupa’s willingness to learn and her employer’s patience allowed her to not only pick up English, Malay and Teochew but also to become the family’s “go-to person” – as their chef, repairwoman and confidant. Over the course of 26 years, Rupa has not only made herself useful to the family but also gains the respect from them by being a confidant.
  8. Another FDW Marny Pera nominated her employer of 28 years, Mdm Yap, for her “incomparable patience and perseverance” in allowing her time and space to learn despite her having no knowledge about cooking and doing household chores initially. We learn from these heartwarming stories that care and mutual respect can lead to good outcomes for both parties. All of them are willing to be patient and give each other time and space to learn and grow.
  9. On the government’s part, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has put in place a comprehensive set of regulations to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of FDWs in Singapore are looked after. We also regulate employment agencies to ensure that the interests of both employers and the domestic workers are protected. Anyone who breaks our rules will be taken to task. As a government, we have to be independent and be impartial and sometimes, we have to take a hard position on egregious breaches. But rest assured that the government will be fair in handling the disputes of employers and FDWs.
  10. MOM is not alone in our efforts. We have many strong and reliable partners such as FAST, AEAS and the foreign embassies with whom we work closely with to raise employment standards for FDWs in Singapore. Through the combined effort of all parties, I am glad to share that the vast majority of FDWs attest that they are happy with the employment situation in Singapore. From the preliminary findings of a new survey conducted by MOM this year, with about 1,000 foreign domestic workers, we came to know that about 97% of FDWs were satisfied working in Singapore. About 80% of them said that they would recommend Singapore to their friends and relatives as a place to work.
  11. Today, as we celebrate FDW Day, it is apt that we also recognise the FDW of the Year and Employer of the Year. I had the opportunity to read through some of the nomination letters and after reading through them, I am very touched and moved by the stories of employers and FDWs going the extra mile to help each other. No matter who wins the awards today, every one of you here is already a winner because you have made a significant difference in someone’s life. I hope the nominee’s stories will inspire many more employers and FDWs to cultivate good working relationships.
  12. On this note, I wish all of you a very happy FDW Day. I hope that you will enjoy the rest of the day through the many activities planned by the organiser. Thank you.