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Speech at 7th 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)
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. I would like to thank FAST, AEAS and their partners – for organising this meaningful celebration. It is my pleasure to join all of you today.

    Appreciation for FDWs’ Contributions
  2. Foreign domestic workers, or FDWs for short, are integral to the lives of many families in Singapore. We have benefitted from your help in our households and the care you provide to our families. Because of your dedication and support, we are able to better manage our various responsibilities. Let’s show our heartfelt appreciation to our FDWs by giving them a big round of applause.
  3. Many FDWs have had to leave their families back home, make sacrifices and overcome challenges in order to come and work here in Singapore. They also have to manage living and working in a new environment.

    Improvement in FDWs’ Well-being and Satisfaction
  4. Many FDWs have lived and worked in Singapore. I am happy to know that the vast majority of them are happy working here. 
  5. Our 2015 FDW survey found that:
    a. About 98% of FDWs had at least one rest day a month, a significant increase from 53% in 2010
    b. 93% of FDWs indicated they received sufficient emotional and social support
    c. From 2010 to 2015, the proportion of FDWs who intend to continue working in Singapore after their contract ends rose from 68% to around 80%
  6. Nonetheless, we can always do better. This is a continuous effort. Successfully managing the relationship between the employer and the FDW is fundamental to this effort.

    Building Successful and Lasting Employer-FDW Working Relationship 
  7. I am heartened to note that many employers are understanding and do what they can to help their FDWs, especially those who are here for the first time. Indeed, positive employer-FDW relationship is key to FDW well-being. For the relationship to work well, there must be open communication, mutual care and respect and a willingness to understand and accommodate.
  8. Take for example one of our nominees for the FDW of the Year, Ms. Indra:
    a. She arrived in Singapore in 1994 not being able to speak a word of English. However, knowing that open communication with her employer is very important, she persevered and picked up the language.
    b. She did this while still providing care and respecting the needs of her employer and the family. In fact, she has continuously improved her skills over the years. Till now, Ms. Indra is still taking a range of courses to add on to her list of skills as ‘super nanny’.
    c. This also shows her willingness to understand the needs of her employer, and accommodate them to the best of her ability. Her dedication has, in the words of her employer, Mdm Vera, allowed her to “morph from a novice home-helper to an experienced nanny, cook and domestic helper”. 
  9. On the part of employers, one of the FDW Employer of the Year nominees, Mdm Goh, provides an excellent example:
    a. She has open communication, and shown the same care and respect to her FDW, Ms. Kanthi, as she would any other member of her family. And not just for a short period of time, but ever since Ms. Kanthi arrived 22 years ago.
    b. Mdm Goh has also shown willingness to understand and accommodate by helping Ms. Kanthi adapt to life in Singapore. Ms. Kanthi was given multiple opportunities to pick up various skills, including the use of the computer, throughout her stint in Singapore.
    c. Mdm Goh was also a caring and compassionate employer. When Ms. Kanthi was hospitalized after an operation, Mdm Goh made it a point to care for her and gave her ample rest before allowing her to resume her duties. 
  10. These testimonials are undoubtedly an inspiration to us all. 
  11. However, MOM does encounter cases of both errant employers and FDWs. MOM will not hesitate to take the errant party to task. As employers, you have to ensure that your FDW is not ill-treated, exploited or abused. MOM takes a very serious view on such matters. Employers found guilty of abusing their FDWs face 1.5 times the penalties under the Penal Code. Similarly, employers who illegally deploy their FDWs at multiple households or at commercial activities could face a financial penalty and may be debarred from hiring a FDW in the future. As FDWs, you should not abuse those under your care, moonlight and work for other households on your rest days. If found guilty, you will face the consequences of the law and be sent back to your home country.

    Efforts of Our Partners 
  12. There are many helping hands in the community that contribute to the well-being of FDWs in Singapore. These include NGOs like FAST and the Centre for Domestic Employees, as well as Embassies and Employment Agencies. 
  13. FAST, for instance, has invested considerable resources to provide training and social support for FDWs. With the launch of their new clubhouse at Jalan Bukit Merah in August, they are able to provide a larger common gathering space for FDWs to socialize, unwind and enrich their skills. FAST also organises tours and other social activities for FDWs on their rest days. In total, FAST has reached out to more than 70,000 FDWs in FY2015. 
  14. Employment agencies have also been doing their part, in improving how they “match-make” FDWs to employers. In August this year, the Advance Placement Scheme mooted by the EA industry was piloted. The scheme improves matching between employers and FDWs, and reduces the time taken to place an FDW with an employer. We hope that more FDWs will be successfully matched to employers through this scheme.

  15. I am confident that as long as all partners continue to play their part, we will be able to create win-win outcomes for employers, FDWs and other stakeholders in the industry. On this note, I wish all of you a happy FDW Day. 
  16. Thank you.