If a FDW has to perform better and work happily the mental health of foreign domestic workers (FDW) needs to improve, and this can be achieved with a better match in employer-employee expectations.
We have received calls at times from helpers whom are being paid a high salary of $750 to $800 but yet they are not happy and are willing to drop to salary of $500 if they get a house where they will be happy and less stressed.
Employers fail to see that the FDW are making an enormous sacrifice – often missing their own families and children – in favour of making a living away from home.
The number of foreign domestic workers, or FDW, employed in Singapore has increased rapidly over the years. 206,300 were employed in 2011. This number has risen to 237,000 today, and the number continues to climb.
Indeed, many rely on FDW as caregivers to their children and elderly, and to keep up with the chores at home. FDW are generally paid around SG$550 to SG$600 (US$400 to US$435) monthly. If you have a young child, or an elderly or disabled person living at home, you are eligible for a concessionary levy rate of SG$60 (US$43.50) per month. This makes it relatively affordable for the average Singaporean family to employ a maid.
FDW in Singapore are paid slightly less than their counterparts working in Hong Kong, but significantly more than those working in Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, they aren’t entitled to statutory holidays, or annual leave, compared to those in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.
Everyone needs rest days. Weekly off makes a big difference, they get to refresh their mind and they get to spend time with their own community people. Overwork and inadequate rest can cause significant physical and mental health problems.
For employers, their own carreer and job is important for them . They have to spend a lot of time in office and they need a very good helper to manage their own house and the children/elderly.
Employers at times call us and their first requirements is “ I cant give a OFF day” . We immediately tell them , “ Sorry Sir/Madam , it will be difficult to match a helper for you” .
The demands of foreign domestic workers are a far cry from those a couple of decades ago. Most want a day off every week (which is mandatory, according to the Ministry of Manpower), and demand a higher salary.
FDW now know their rights very well – for example Darjeeling helpers know what their minimum salary and rest days in Singapore.
Many domestic helpers today also state mobile phones and Wi-Fi access as their requirements, as they want to be able to contact their friends in Singapore, and family back home. They are increasingly educated – with many who even have diplomas and degrees from their home countries.
The problem is that employers are not recognising the changing needs of the FDW today.
Outdated mindsets of employers
While many domestic helpers expect to be treated as part of the family, the reality is that a large proportion of employers in Singapore still treat them as outsiders working in their homes.
What can be done to improve the mental health of FDW in Singapore
- Allow your helper to take weekly offs.
- Give them a rest in the afternoon, once their work is done.
- Ensure she is having sufficient food
- Bring your FDW out once in awhile , if possible.
- Don’t use harsh words or insult them.
- Assist her to make arrangement to meet her follow friends to go out for her rest days.
- Being overworked and ill-treated is a possible reason why maids commit crimes, and they can, like any other human beings, be pushed over the edge.
- If you feel your helper is depressed or showing signs of homesick, talk to her or talk to the agency for help.