All first-time foreign domestic workers will have to attend starting in May a one day programme to get basic knowledge on living and working safely in Singapore.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the one-day Settling-In Programme will be conducted in English or the maid’s native language.
It will replace the English Entry Test and cover five areas: introduction to Singapore, conditions of employment, safety at home and in other areas, as well as relationship and stress management.
In addition, the current four-hour Safety Awareness Course will be subsumed under the programme.
The programme will be outsourced to two external training organisations, which have been assessed and subsequently accredited by MOM. Both groups will offer the programme at a cost of $75 per maid, to be borne by the maid’s employer.
Director of MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, Aw Kum Cheong, said: “Through the different modules, we hope that first-time foreign domestic workers will find the Settling-In Programme useful in helping them adapt to working and living in Singapore, and in fostering better working relationship with their employers.”
He added that employers should actively supervise their maids during work and provide a safe environment for them as “performing chores in a home environment is very different”.
Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) Jolovan Wham applauded the move. “The settling in programme is an important programme to assist domestic workers to adjust to life in Singapore. I am glad that MOM is doing this,” he said.
In addition, according to Filipino maid Jowelyn Dequilla, the programme is beneficial to foreign domestic workers as it introduces new modules that would be helpful to maids.
“I think it’s good because it’s new and it will help many [maids] when they come to Singapore,” said the 34-year-old, who has been working in Singapore since January last year. Previously, maids spent three days in the agency learning about housekeeping and safety before they were sent to their employers.
Who should pay for the training?
However, while many people welcomed the new policy, they also questioned the rationale behind making employers pay for the course.
Said 56-year-old Soo Peh Hwa: “I think the maid agency should pay [for it]. It’s their responsibility to provide us with trained maids. Why should I pay extra to train them even more?”
Marketing executive Zen Teoh echoed Soo’s views. Said the 37-year-old: “I agree with the programme, but the [maid] agency should pay for it instead of us [employers] since they earn so much.”
However, others like Chia Lay Eng feel that employers should foot the bill for their maid’s training programme. Said the 46-year-old: “It’s not a big sum, so I don’t have a problem with paying. $75 is not a big deal for Singaporeans.”
She added that if the maid agencies had to pay the fee, some might “include hidden charges and bill the maids more”.
According to MOM, information on the programme will be available on its website from 20 April. Registration can be done through the accredited training providers from the same date.