Beginning May 1, the minimum wage for Filipino domestic helpers in Singapore will be raised from $550 to S$570, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office said Friday.
Labor attache Ramon Pastrana said in a memo to over 200 accredited employment agencies that adjustment was due to the fluctuation of exchange rates of the US dollar in relation to the Singapore dollar, according to a news release by Channel NewsAsia.
The last revision for the minimum salary took place in 2012, where it went up from S$500 to S$550.
Of the 240,000 domestic workers in Singapore, about 70,000 are Filipino citizens.
The Association of Employment Agencies in Singapore said the salary revision was not unexpected, on the back of several meetings and discussions between the Labour Office and employment agencies. According to its president K. Jayaprema, maid salary is still pegged to US$400 but because of the exchange rate fluctuation, the adjustment was a natural progression.
However, Ms Jayaprema acknowledged there would be “some concerns” among employers.
“Singapore employers are kind of price-sensitive, whether it’s about employment agency fees or salary,” Ms Jayaprema said. “And it’s not just about the basic salary. There will be a little bit increase in the compensation rate for the rest day.”
At least one maid agency Channel NewsAsia spoke to was in favour of the revised salary, saying it could help attract more high-quality domestic workers amid competition for such maids in Hong Kong and the Middle East. Matthew Lee of Raymond Maids Employment Agency said the salary hike helps Singapore stay competitive.
“Currently, maids in Hong Kong have a higher salary, about S$770 equivalent,” he added. “With this increase in salary, we are able to attract more volume and better calibre maids into Singapore.”
In addition to the pay increase, Pastrana emphasized the Labor Office’s tougher stance on employment agencies who collect placement fees by salary deduction. Placement fees are service fees paid to an agency for facilitating the employment of a domestic worker such as assistance on paperwork and documentation, negotiation with employer, and others.
While agencies in the Philippines are not allowed by law to charge placement fees to domestic helpers, Singapore counterparts are allowed up to a maximum of twi month’s worth of a domestic worker’s salary as placement fee.
According to the POLO notice, it has “received reports that employment agencies in Singapore continuously charge Filipino domestic workers placement fees through salary deductions of one to eight months”.
“Due to this alleged blatant disregard of Philippine laws and regulations and despite the many briefings conducted by POLO-SG to address the situation, POLO-SG hereby announces the following policies to take effect immediately,” it said.
Agencies who collect placement fees through salary deduction are subject to “immediate suspension of documentary processing.” Agencies will also be required to submit updated name, contact details and salaries of domestic helpers under their jurisdiction, as well as the names and contact details of their corresponding employers.