Tag Archive | FDW

Red for MND town council press release…?

due to a misleading phrase about Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East’s inability to collect S&CC money from households in the Opposition Workers Party controlled ward in a timely manner.

Tell me what would you think when you read this in the Ministry of National Development’s FY2013 Town Council Management Report: “Under S&CC arrears management, the sharp decline in the TC’s S&CC arrears situation is of grave public concern”.

Sharp decline in the TC’s S&CC arrears situation. I did a double take. Isn’t that good? Well no apparently as the following four words “of grave public concern” show.

Then alamak! I get it. The news release writer had meant “sharp deterioration in the TC’s S&SCC situation”. Why didn’t anyone correct him or her?

It reminds me of a misunderstanding I just had with one my mother’s helpers.

Yesterday was raining heavily and as I had many purchases that mustn’t get wet, I called ahead hoping one of the helpers would come down to the car porch and take up the shopping as I live in a crumbling 50 year old condo which has no sheltered parking.

The phone rang endlessly but no one picked it up. Tried again and again and then gave up.

Stormed up to the flat annoyed yet fearful. What if something like Nightmare on Elm Street had happened to all three?

I needn’t have worried. All three were fast asleep.

One helper on hearing me shut the front door came out from mum’s room blinking away her afternoon nap.

After I checked the landline and found that it hadn’t been switched off I asked: “Why didn’t you answer the phone when I called?”

She muttered something that made me close to ballistic.

“If you heard the phone ringing why didn’t you answer?” I demanded between clenched teeth.

She repeated what she said earlier.

“Why didn’t you answer phone? Phone!!”

She looked confused. And damn it! She repeated once more what she first said.

I told myself to keep calm. I thought of Gandhi. Mahatma. When you are in the right etc etc..

It was only at dinner that I realised what the most recent addition to the household (2nd helper was hired only in July; Picky Siti has been with us for 7 years) had said.

“I here! I here!”, meaning she was in mum’s aircon room. Not “I hear! I hear!”

Which brings me back to the MND’s press release. It’s OK for a newly arrived Myanmar FDW to cause confusion with her mangling of English. Not for an official release writer.

This brings now to the MND’s Town Council specifics about those arrears.

Aljunied’s S&CC arrears rate rose from 2.6% in FY10 to 8.4% in FY11 and FY12, after Aljunied merged with Hougang. These rates were significantly above the national norm of about 3%.

In December 2012, the TC committed to improve the TC’s arrears situation. However, its S&CC arrears rate had further increased to 29.4% as at end Apr 2013.

What effect does MND hope to have on discerning Singaporean voters with these revelations?

Would this seeming inability to collect what is due to the AHPETC make them shake their heads and vow never should this brand of incompetency be allowed to run our country?

Or would the revelations make some among the discerning voters think one or all of the following:

1) There must be a concentration of poor people in AHPETC

2) There must be a concentration of canny skivvers in AHPETC who are able to keep delaying paying what they owe

3) Those who want to be successful should move far away from AHPETC for poverty and dishonest skivving could be as infectious as SARS

4) Those running AHPETC must have hearts of gold to hold back from driving those unable to pay to the wall. Thus demonstrating a caring spirit that others only mouth.

I wonder which of these my dear regular readers will pick? 🙄

If the last then I fear for the future of the PAP.


Don’t want no discount price Govt!

Thank you!

Judging by the half empty house (based on what’s shown on Channel News Asia) today, the first day of debate on the so-called hot potato Gerard Ee’s pay reduction review, many Members of Parliament may think the same too, hopefully reflecting their constituents’ views!

I am delighted my MP wasn’t present.

I find this constant discussion of pay, discount, benchmarking etc so, so distasteful. Even my mother’s Picky Siti won’t allow continuous discussion of her worth and use to us in $-terms — and she’s a lowly FDW!

I am surprised that no MP has felt insulted enough to tell those baying to pay MPs and Ministers less — a vocal minority surely — to go fly a kite.

I would. But then I’m no MP and have no desire to be — on whichever side of the political divide. 🙄

see, no one's behind him

no one's behind him either!

Underaged maids: check this

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?

is she the same person as ....



... as this person on the bio sheet?











From TODAYonline

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)

One lives and learns

Once upon a time, I used to castigate employers who take their maids to restaurants and let them sit there watching them (ie the employers) eat to their hearts’ content or have them banished outside the restaurant, waiting to be summoned once the bosses have had their fill.

Occasionally, friends who have more dealings with foreign domestic workers  than I did back then would point out that there could be all sorts of reasons why the FDWs didn’t eat with their employers.

For example, they said, it could be the maids didn’t like the food being served at those restaurants.

My usual reaction was: how can, good food, expensive places. I preferred to think those employers who let their maid run on empty while they fed their faces were stingy mean!

Other friends would point out that the maids had probably already eaten at home. Then why bring them out, I would retort. My ever patient friends would then say: Perhaps the kids or the elderly folks need the maid’s help?

I remain unconvinced.

Since that time, having lived with a maid — my mother’s actually — for about 30 months, my eyes have been open to some of the burden which some employers have to put up with from their FDWs.

Mum’s Siti, though extremely clean, meticulous and clever, is very temperamental and picky with her food. She’s all smiles one moment and stormy faced in another.

She’s complained of sickness of all sorts that had seen us taking her for A&E and a breast specialist at SGH — which friends at the hospital say is the best in Singapore — all with nil health results and she’s right as rain after the visits.

Friends have advised me to send her packing but as I give high marks for cleanliness and meticulousness and mum having gotten used to her, I’m reluctant to take their advice.

Then today, Siti did something that makes me reconsider my friends’ advice. As well as open my eyes to the reality that when employers don’t include their maids while dining in restaurants, it could be that the maids refused to eat.

That’s what happened to me at Culina in Dempsey at lunch today. I took mum and her maid there, altho earlier I had promised to take them to Marina Bay Sands to try the hawker fare there and also for Picky to take some pix of the Integrated Resorts to send home.

However, today being the first day when all the safety barriers have come down after the F1 races, I chickened out from heading for MBS. Also, I wasn’t sure where mum could be dropped off to minimise walking or using escalators, because of her wobbly legs.

After explaining all this — and promising to go to MBS another time — we headed for Dempsey, sat down and the wait girl was about to take our orders when Siti wrinkled her nose and said she didn’t want to eat.


 “I don’t like the food!” 

The wait girl tried to tempt her with offers to do spaghetti with this or that. I suggested the garlic prawns on the menu. Or pehaps a sandwich then? But no. Siti was adamant.

“I don’t want to eat.”

The situation was turning ridiculous.

I said, resignedly: “Well, if you don’t want to eat, then you mustn’t sit here watching us. Why don’t you go for a walk?”

She got up, made a face and went off.

My mother, who has MCI, was non-plus.

“Where she’s going?”

“For a walk. She doesn’t want to eat.”

As it turned out, Picky didn’t go for a walk. She just sat outside the restaurant, probably giving everyone who walked into Culina the impression that we didn’t want to pay for her meal! Oh the poor maid! Oh the wicked employer!

Was i embarrassed? Yes! Was I annoyed? Yes! Did she spoil my lunch? Rather!

But it also made me see that when a maid doesn’t eat with her ma’am in a restaurant, it isn’t always because ma’am is Cinderella’s step-mum.

If anything, today’s nasty experience showed that I’ve maligned too many maid employers in the past and got my just dessert!

Choi sum fa got deflowered

How detail must the instructions I give the maid be when it comes to preparing food for the table?

Cleanliness? Check! Every minutiiae from washing and drying of hands, to separating cooking equipment, crockery, cutlery, pots and pans. Which tea towel for what. Chopping board: one each for meat/fish, veggie and fruits.

But there are finer points unrelated to cleanliness that get overlooked. I mean when I say “peel this apple”, I don’t need to add, “and then put the peel in the trash-bin”, do I?

It seems that such finer details aren’t always obvious to those who come from the deepest of Indonesia.

Let me illustrate.

There’s this rather expensive vegetable called Choi Sum Fa (Chinese spinach with tiny flowers ranging from green to yellow as seen in the pix).


Now you would imagine there’s no need to instruct someone, indeed anyone, that the flowers (besides the tender stems and leaves) are the piece de resistance and that’s what makes the veggie quite pricey.

So, I never thought to tell Siti the maid who joined us 4 months ago, unlike digging out the “eyes” from potatoes, sweet potatoes etc, taking out the seeds from chilli, running water when peeling onions and so on.

Image my surprise earlier this week when I walked into the kitchen and found her at the sink diligently snipping off the yellow flowers of my precious bag of choi sum!

“Why are you doing that?” I demanded, more suprised than angry, just like I would be if I found her putting a tub of ice-cream next to boiling pot, with the gas turned on high. (Actually, she’s done that with fish fresh from the market but that’s another story!)

“What ma’am?” asked my dosey maid, snipping off yet another flower.

“Stop it, now!” I said in my most peremtory voice as she looked at me with her hush-puppy eyes.

Oh, I gave her an earful about the flowers but at the end of the day, what else could I do but gnash my teeth that I had once again 4gotten to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s”. One may think it isn’t necessary to spell out everything but that’s where one is wrong. Never take anything for granted with an FDW!

Come to think of it, we have had choi sum fa on several occasions already and it now occurs to me that each time the dish had come to the table sans the yellow flowers, even tho the veggie back from the supermarket often had resplendent bouquets.

Must make sure I reinforce the lesson the next time we have choi sum fa for dinner.

Discipline or meaness?

Because of my mother’s condition, we are forced to employ a live-in foreign maid or what the MOM has termed foreign domestic worker (FDW).

I’ve always believe that one must feed one’s maid well ie three square meals a day. I’ve always believe too that my maid, should I have one, should eat with me n mum at the same table.

With a maid from the deepest Sumatra in situate since 3/3, I’ve been faced with the practical realities of implementing my ideals.

First, eating at the same table: do I dole out the maid’s portion of food or allow her to help herself to the dishes on the table? I opted for the first and after laying down some vague rules (ie Popo ie my mum must be given to choice pieces of food), left it at that.

Alas, this hasn’t quite worked out. Siti either doesn’t understand what I mean or she’s just plain greedy.  She just dawdles with her rice but keeps heaping veg, meat n fish onto her plate. 

One evening when we had a one-pot all goodies porridge, she went ahead and emptied the pot which had enough for 2nd helpings for all three of us, altho neither mum nor me had finished our first helping — without any reference to us. By the time I realised what happened, it was too late. Mum and I had to go without second helpings and that didn’t make us feel particularly generous towards Siti.

So, I’ve implemented what is a rather mean move: start the meal by giving Siti a portion of everything that’s served at table and then to help her to the food as the meal progressed.

As we also eat out quite often, there’s a new dimension that i didn’t appreciate till I now have a maid. There are places I can’t take her, such as the Tanglin and Cricket Clubs; there are also places I don’t want to take her, because they are pricey.

So, now we are left with Raffles Marina, NUSS outlets, noodle houses or food courts. She’s already been to Raffles Marina twice and once to NUSS at Kent Ridge, as well as a couple of mid-end buffets.

The noodle houses have proved problematic however as most dishes are pork-based and she being a Muslim, I found there isn’t much she could eat.

So, food courts have become the safest bets. They are air-con, have fairly decent loos and have sheltered car-parks, all three pre-requisites for me, if not my mum.

Yet these are not without problems. For one, the need to look for seats for three persons. Siti isn’t alert; my mother is slow of foot and I end up having to rush in, grab the first convenient table and keep a look out for a dopey maid and an old shuffling woman.

The major problem is what amount of money to give Siti to buy her lunch. I started with $4 at the Tanglin Mall Food Court, because that’s what mum’s lunch cost. (Modus operandi: we buy mum’s food and have her settle and then maid n I buy our food separately).

I was surprised she had spent exactly $4. No change. I asked if she chose food to spend all the money or chose food she liked. She said the latter. The next time, at Great World City, she spent $3.30, and returned 70cts change. Another time, I ordered the same food for all three.

Then “disaster” struck. We were back at GWC and I found that I didn’t have the exact $4 to give her. I hesitated and passed her a $5 note with the whispered instruction to spend no more than $4. And we parted.

When I got back to join her n mum, I was a bit surprised to see she had roast chicken, an omellete, a side salad and a small bowl of soup. She handed me 20 cents. No receipt.

How much did that cost? $4.80,ma’am. Didn’t I tell u to spend no more than $4? Stubborn silence. I must instil discipline, so I said aloud:”U’ll have to pay me back 80 cents, from yr next month’s salary”, altho in my mind, I was torn between discipline and the fact that it’s only 80cts for crying out loud.

I might have left it at that if Siti as tho powered by unknown forces retorted,”I’ll pay u out of my salary this month (she had just been paid on 3/4) ma’am”.

“I’m the one to decide and when I said next month, I mean next month, OK?”

Stubborn silence. We went on eating altho I wondered whether I was doing my digestive juices any good by getting so worked up, over 80 cts. But the other part of me said aloud to my mother:”How can I trust her with money to go to the market when she can’t even be trusted with $5 when told to spend only $4?” We clucked at each other, then Siti broke plaintively into our conversation to insist she paid this month and when I said “no” fiercely, she promptly allowed tears to roll down her face.

There was clearly a tussle for one-upmanship here. I wish I could have relaxed but I believe if she were to stay on, then she must abide by my house rules. So, I quietly but firmly asked her to please go away till she could control herself. She obliged only when I repeated my order.

When I recounted this “scene” to my family, my bro-in-law said solve it by ordering the food on her behalf. Dumb idea. I want her to learn to manage money. And I also don’t want to be her nurse-maid.

His son, my nephew, suggested giving her an allowance for food court meals. But he saw how dumb it was even as he was making the suggestion. What if she blew the whole sum on a couple of meals thus creating more needless friction.

The only thing to do is to continue to give her $4 and let her work out the sums. She does get a full breakfast and dinner at home anyway.