SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has warned that it will revoke the work permits of foreign domestic workers who borrow money from unlicensed money lenders like loansharks, stressing that it takes a serious view of this issue, amid a rise in such cases.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower pointed out to 8world that if the employer discovers that the maid borrowed money from an unlicensed moneylender or ran away from home, the employer should report the matter to the police and MOM.
In a recent case, a helper who owed money was being chased by a loanshark. Although her employer helped pay back the money, the helper broke a lock in the home, took away her passport and left without saying goodbye. The employer and her family were still harassed and threatened by the loanshark, leading them to file a police report.
Responding to such cases, a spokesperson for MOM said that the ministry takes seriously the issue of work pass holders, including helpers, borrowing money from unlicensed moneylenders, and emphasized that their work passes will be revoked and they will be prohibited from working in the country.
To address this issue proactively, MOM has intensified efforts to educate helpers about responsible money management and the risks associated with borrowing from unlicensed moneylenders
As part of these efforts, the maid placement program, guidance manuals by MOM, and courses conducted by NGOs are being utilized to impart financial literacy to domestic helpers. Employers are also encouraged to engage in open conversations with their maids, fostering better understanding of their living habits and financial situations.
“We encourage employers to have open conversations with maids to better understand their living habits and financial situation. Employers can also highlight the risks and implications of borrowing from microfinance companies [to maids] and remind maids if they are Asking your employer or agency for help when you are in financial difficulty can reduce the risk of maids borrowing money from unlicensed lenders,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman also pointed out that employers are not allowed to withhold the passports of helpers, noting that doing so would be illegal.
MOM revealed in a written parliamentary reply in February last year that although the number of helpers borrowing money from unlicensed moneylenders has increased, it has remained at a low level of about 150 per year between 2020 and 2022.
The Singapore Police Force estimates an upward trend in harassment cases involving helpers and unlicensed moneylenders from 2020 to 2022, numbering in the hundreds. The Ministry of Law has implemented measures to curb borrowing from microfinance companies, and the police are collaborating with banks to investigate suspicious transactions related to unlicensed lending.
In the event that a helper is found to have borrowed from an unlicensed lending company, authorities will promptly notify the employer.