Parliament: Not beneficial to foreign domestic workers to be brought in for short-term help

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
(AFP via Getty Images file photo)

SINGAPORE — It could be detrimental to a foreign domestic worker (FDW) to be brought into Singapore to provide short-term help, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Low Yen Ling on Tuesday (7 May).

The worker may encounter uncertainty about the duration of work or when the needs of employers change suddenly, said Low in Parliament, who was replying to a question on the introduction of short-term work permits for FDWs in Singapore.

“She might also not earn enough to repay the agency fees or loans she has taken in order to come to Singapore,” said Low in response to Tampines GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Desmond Choo.

Choo asked about allowing such permits for FDWs to support families and enable employment agencies to provide short-term domestic help.

Low said that that the MOM had introduced the Household Services Scheme (HSS) in September 2017 to provide families with short-term domestic services such as cleaning.

Currently, there are 25 household cleaning companies under the scheme, charging on average $22 to $30 per hour for their services.

Unlike FDWs who work for and live in households, foreign workers employed by companies under the HSS are services workers who are deployed to multiple households to provide part-time household services. The latter do not live in the households where they work.

These foreign workers are employed full-time by the companies and on longer duration contracts, Low said.

“Families caring for the elderly and who require short-term care options can also tap on respite care services available at senior care centres or nursing homes,” she added.

“For younger children, families may engage child care centres or student care centres on a suitable care arrangement that meets their needs, which may include short-term care.”

In response to Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Melvin Yong’s question on the reason for setting the duration of FDW work permits at two years and the possibility of reviewing its length, Low said that it provides certainty and stability for both the FDW and the employer.

“Two years is set taking into consideration the resources and the efforts that both parties must invest to make this relationship work. For example...the employer also needs time to train the FDWs,” she added.

There are 253,800 FDWs in Singapore as of December last year, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) website.

Yong also asked if the MOM will consider extending the HSS scheme to include the provision of short-term caregiving services.

The ministry is constantly reviewing the scheme to see how it can be improved, Low replied.

It is also “prepared to include companies which provide care-giving services and perhaps even short-term respite care, with the Ministry of Health (MOH) support and if there are proof points to show there’s a big industry demand”, she added.

Considering that cleaning fees are “quite high”, Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng asked if the MOM would consider providing subsidies for the HHS, similar to levy concessions for eligible FDW employers.

FDW employers currently get a concessionary rate of $60 per month if they are staying with a young child or grandchild, an elderly or persons with disabilities.

Low said, “As we review how we can improve the HSS, we need to bear in mind how we are designing it to provide the support for families with (younger kids and elderly).”

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