2 NGOs Lament Lack of Labor Protection for Singapore Domestic Workers

Two non-government organizations in Singapore have submitted a joint independent report to the United Nations citing the deplorable employment situation and working conditions faced by many migrant domestic workers in the city-state due to substandard protection by local labor laws.

The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics and Transient Workers Count Too alleged that domestic workers were not protected by the Employment Act, Singapore’s main labor law, Lianhe Zaobao reported.

There are around 240,000 domestic workers in Singapore, mainly from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. Without receiving the same level of protection other workers enjoy under the Employment Act, maids are often exploited by their employers, who force them to work long hours and deny them benefits such as statutory holidays, annual leave or paid sick leave.

Although the Singaporean government has mandated one day off a week for foreign domestic workers, many of them see their rest days canceled, as authorities also allow employers to pay maids extra to work on their days off. Many of the maids who owe their employment agencies money for job referrals give up their rest days so they’ll receive bigger wages in the hopes of settling their debts sooner.

The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics said many maids who seek assistance from them earn around S$350 to S$650 (US$257-US$477) a month.

Also, maids at present are not permitted to change employers unless their bosses sign an agreement for them. This means the women are left with almost no other choice but to accept poor terms of employment and even violence from their bosses. Otherwise, they risk being sent back to their home countries.

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