Singapore—A new ruling from Indonesian authorities has passed the placement fees of domestic helpers to their Singaporean employers, which would cost the employers as much as  S$3,000 in additional fees beginning from next month.

This amount, to be paid only once, is allotted for such expenses as transportation, accommodation and medical examinations for domestic helpers coming to Singapore. The helpers’ salaries will then be deducted in tranches over a period of several months.

In the past, this fee was shouldered by the helpers themselves, who would often go into debt because of these fees.

The New Paper (TNP) quotes a representative from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) as saying that the ministry heard from local employment agencies that authorities from Indonesia will be implementing a “zero placement fee policy” by January 1, 2021.

This would allow maids from Indonesia to have no debts when they enter Singapore, with employers now required to pay the placement fees.

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Concerns have been expressed that the new ruling would have a negative effect on both employers and helpers.

TNP quoted the president of the Association of Employment Agencies, Ms K Jayaprema, as saying that having to shell out the additional amount could cause employers to look to less expensive countries such as Myanmar as a source for new helpers.

“What happens if the FDW decides to leave a month or two after the employer pays the fee? There is currently no recourse for this,” she said.

Ms Jayaprema added that the usual placement fee is around S$2,000 but could be as high as S$3,000, and that it usually takes around half a year for helpers to pay it off.

One maid from Indonesia quoted in TNP’s article said she paid S$340 monthly for nine months to pay the debt she incurred 11 years ago when she started working in Singapore.

This is a considerable chunk out of the S$550 maids from Indonesia are usually paid.

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Maids from Myanmar usually have lower salaries, at about S$450 on average.

There are 127,000 Indonesians out of the 252,000 domestic helpers in Singapore.

Moreover, the S$3,000 employers need to pay is in addition to the S$1,700 they already shell out for new helpers’ swab tests and quarantine, pointed out Mr Brian Tan, who runs Nation Human Resources, an agency for helpers.

“We hope that MOM can consider speaking to the Indonesian government to help alleviate some of the burden on Singapore employers,” Mr Tan said.

The representative from MOM told TNP, “Employment agencies are in discussion with their Indonesian recruiters on how they can meet the requirements.

Employers who have urgent needs and are facing delays in bringing in FDWs from Indonesia can discuss their options with the employment agencies.

MOM has in the last few weeks been approving a larger number of FDWs from various countries to enter Singapore.” —/TISG

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