New visa rules lead to shortage of maids

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 12:00am

Singapore is facing a potential shortage of foreign maids as a result of tough new entry requirements imposed by the government.

Employment agencies have reported a massive drop in the supply of maids from Indonesia and the Philippines since the new Ministry of Manpower rules were introduced earlier this month.

Under the guidelines, maids must be over 23 and have at least eight years of formal schooling.

The Singaporean government hopes the new entry rules will overcome some of the problems suffered by young and inexperienced maids. More than 100 Indonesian women have died in the past five years as a result of allegedly falling out of high-rise apartment buildings.

Employment agencies claim the new ministry rules are too strict and that it is difficult to find maids from low-cost countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka that meet the criteria.

Evelyn Teo, director of SMDC Human Resources Services, said her company had suffered a 90 per cent drop in the number of maids supplied from overseas agencies.

'Our Indonesian agencies have simply stopped sending data,' Ms Teo said. 'The age and the education criteria are very difficult to meet.'

More than 150 members of the Association of Employment Agencies met earlier this week to discuss ways to deal with Singapore's looming maid shortage.

Ms Teo admits the low wages paid to domestic workers in Singapore - compared with pay rates in Hong Kong - will make it difficult for agencies to find new recruits.

The association recommends that new maids from India should be paid a starting salary of S$210 ($1,000) per month, while those from Indonesia should be given S$260 a month.

About 150,000 foreign maids work in Singapore, with the majority coming from Indonesia.