As regular visitors to this site would know, I’ve just had a very bad — and expensive — experience trying to bring an additional domestic foreign worker into my home.
More about that here.
I got to thinking about that bad experience again, my memories stirred up by a story of the difficulty that employers encounter in verifying that the maids they employ are as old as their biodata claims. (below)
A letter to the ST Forum online on Dec 15 also raised the point of not being able to reconcile the maid who arrives with the one shown on the biodata sheet or even the person whom the would-be employer had interviewed over a video-link. (below)
The talk about the real age of foreign domestic workers is gaining traction in recent weeks due to the tragic case where an FDW is being charged with the murder of her charge. Her defence lawyer has questioned whether the accused is really 24 as stated.
My contribution to this debate relates to the FDW I had to send away after five days: no, I didn’t send her away because of dispute over her age or her not being the same person as shown on her biodata. She was a transfer maid and I got to see her (as did my mother and Picky Siti our existing and continuing maid) and then employed her, despite her chequered employment history.
I merely want to share the photo of her which the agency provided me with and presumably all her five employers be4 me. Compare that with a photo I took of her when I met her at the agency.
Now tell me if the person on the left is really the person on the right?
Verifying the age of maids can be a problem: Employment agencies
Calls within the industry to lower the minimum age from 23 to 21 in view of competition
Dec 16, 2010
by Esther Ng
SINGAPORE – Their age on their passport is 23 – the minimum age requirement for a domestic maid in Singapore – but they look younger, like teenagers.
It is not known how many foreign domestic workers (FDW) here are under-aged but the practice of falsifying one’s age is quite common among developing countries, though not confined to domestic workers, non-government organisations (NGOs) and employment agencies (EA) told MediaCorp.
Driven by poverty or coerced into working overseas, these women allow recruiters to fix their passports.
The lack of documentation and birth certificates, and lax bureaucratic controls make this possible. Employment agencies and NGOs said the incidence is more prevalent among Indonesians.
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics’ (Home) president Bridget Lew said: “Indonesians tend to marry much younger, like around 16, whereas Filipinas marry around 20 …They need the money for their families and do not think (over-stating their age) is a crime.”
However, she pointed out that under-aged FDWs working here are more of an exception than the norm.
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) president John Gee told MediaCorp that the raising of the minimum age to 23 could have made applicants “more inclined to be dishonest”.
Home and TWC2 believe the responsibility lies with employment agencies to do more thorough checks.
But EAs told MediaCorp the burden is too onerous.
A common refrain: Who are we to contest the legality of the passport?
A number of employment agencies told MediaCorp that they rely on their recruiters in the source country to weed out underaged applicants.
“Our recruiters are very careful to follow Singapore’s law,” said Best Helper’s sales manager, who gave his name only as Kelvin.
A few, though, do make trips down to the source country and interview the applicants themselves, such as AUK Management Services’ executive consultant, Stephen Chia.
“I observe how she answers my questions, how confident she is. This is in addition to looking at her date of birth in her passport,” he said.
Crislo Resources’ director Roy Castello told MediaCorp he makes it a point to check an applicant’s educational certificates, the “akta lahir” – a family tree record – and identification card.
Even so, both Mr Chia and Mr Castello admit the process is not foolproof.
The Association of Employment Agencies Singapore’s (AEAS) vice-president Allan Wee said some employment agents have sent back FDWs that looked too young.
EAs which knowingly bring in an underage FDW will be breaching Employment Agency licensing conditions. They will be given demerit points and placed on a surveillance list. Any further breaches by the EAs, while still on the list, could lead to a suspension of their licence. Those who bring in underage FDWs are also required to repatriate these FDWs and to bear the cost of repatriation.
Mr Wee added: “It’s not worth getting into trouble with the government – we could lose our licence.”
He added that as competition for FDWs increase, especially from Taiwan and Hong Kong where FDWs are paid more, there have been calls from within the industry to lower the minimum age of FDWs to 21 years.
Copyright 2010 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved
From ST Forum
Dec 15, 2010
Help maid employers
WHEN it comes to hiring maids, employers are asked to choose from biodata that are almost similar to one another except for the pictures and personal details.
We do not have a chance to see or talk to the maids in person before we decide on one. This would be all right if we didn’t have to pay $2,400 to $2,600 upfront and wait for up to a month or two for the maid to arrive.
I have changed maids four times over the last two years because of a variety of reasons, ranging from the language barrier to attitude problems. Each time, I was asked to top up the maid’s loan and pay a per diem fee while they waited for a transfer. I also had to wait for one to two months for the new maid to arrive.
On top of the risks and responsibilities employers face when hiring maids, they also have to fork out huge sums with no guarantee whether the one picked is going to work out. There are often inaccuracies in the biodata and even photos can be misleading.
Some agencies offer phone interviews, which is good, provided we speak to the person we have chosen and not her English-speaking friend or relative.
What is the protection for employers? They seem to have all to lose while the maid agencies have all to gain whenever we change a maid. The agencies merely pass the cost on to the maids or the problem to the next employer in the case of transfers.
I appeal to the Government to step in and provide a framework that will give more protection for employers. Allow employers to choose the candidates through fairer ways like face-to-face interviews, raise the bar for employment agencies by requiring them to have minimum capital levels, raise the bar for the qualifications of maids, and impose heavy penalties on blacklisted agencies.
To encourage women to come out to work, we need strong support at home, someone we can trust when we are working.
There are definitely good maids around but finding them is expensive, time-consuming and frustrating journey.
I eventually found one from Myanmar who is hard-working. However, she is thinking of going back to get married and if she decides so, I will have to do this all over again.
Elaine Chow (Mrs)