SINGAPORE: Progress Singapore Party NCMP Ms Hazel Poa recently submitted a Parliamentary Question asking whether the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) would consider adopting the recommendation made by a migrant workers’ advocacy group to allow migrant domestic workers (MDWs) who are assisting in investigations to work. She also asked if MOM would provide live-out options for these workers and allow them to change employers with notice and, if not, why not.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Oct 18), Ms Poa posted the written reply from MOM, writing, “It is disappointing that live-out options for MDWs were rejected on the basis that it will make it more difficult for employers to maintain oversight of their MDW’s safety and well being. Would we make such a comment of any other type of employer-employee relationship?”
On Oct 3, MOM wrote, “The Ministry of Manpower is not considering live-out options for MDWs as it will pose more difficulties for employers to maintain oversight of their MDWs’ well-being and safety. Households that require domestic help for only certain periods of the day can consider engaging the services of companies on the Household Services Scheme instead.”
In a report in August on criminal accusations made against domestic helpers in Singapore, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) recommended, among other things, live-out options for domestic workers, since close proximity with employers made them susceptible to accusations.
“At the same time, many employers consider MDWs as an ‘other’ which increases the propensity of accusations being levelled against the MDW which the employer may feel has acted ‘inappropriately’,” wrote HOME in its report.
HOME had also pointed out that the vast majority of criminal charges brought against domestic workers, more than 80 per cent, do not lead to criminal charges. The group noted that theft is “overwhelmingly the most common accusation made” against MDWs.
The report cited the high-profile case of Ms Parti Liyani, an Indonesian helper convicted in 2019 after she was accused of theft by her employer, Mr Liew Mun Leong, the former chairman of the Changi Airport Group. The conviction was overturned a year later by the High Court.
The report aimed to take a close look at how prevalent these accusations are, especially the ones that are petty in nature and tend to be punitive or retaliatory, as well as their disproportionate impact on the helpers. HOME noted that such accusations leave helpers legally, financially, and socially vulnerable, adding that MDWs often need to stay in a shelter while the accusations are investigated, which significantly disrupts their lives and sources of income.