The Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) Singapore is looking into issues regards payment of salary, insurance coverage and training opportunities for Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) in the region, said chairman Yeo Guat Kwang on the sidelines of a cooking competition organised by Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao and maid employment agency Nation at Suntec City Convention Centre.
Mr. Yeo mentioned that CDE is looking at exploring possibilities on implementing electronic salary payments, reviewing insurance payouts for employees and standardising skill qualifications, Channel News Asia reports.
Highlighting that most of the cases received by CDE being salary-related, Yeo urges the government to make e-payments mandatory for FDWs. He further added that the centre is working with a local bank to give a waiver to employers making e-payments to workers, as most employers cited such costs being a key concern.
“Today many of the employers pay their workers by cash. And when we receive any complaints or encounter cases regarding a salary dispute, sometimes it’s quite hard for us to establish any evidence as there is no documentation to confirm such a dispute between (the parties),” Mr Yeo added. “With the e-payment, all the transactions will be properly recorded – I think it will help.”
Currently, banks charge a monthly fee of around $2 to customers who do not keep a minimum daily amount in their accounts. This is often the case with foreign domestic workers, who prefer to wire the money back home as soon as they receive their pay.
The Centre is also looking at standardizing training standards in line with the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) national credential system. Mr. Yeo believes that while many of the maids who relocate to Singapore have undergone certain training, but owing to lack of standardization, it allows room for employers to complain about issues in performance, arising from maids or FDWs not being able to perform their jobs competently.
To ensure such issues are controlled and prevented, the centre is planning to come up with pre-departure videos and guides to ensure that employees are informed about Singapore’s laws, which will help promote better employer-employee relationships.
The guides by CDE to train foreign workers are published in four different bilingual versions: English with Bahasa Indonesia, Burmese, Tagalog and Tamil. The guides consist of a series of comic illustrations about cultural differences between Singaporean employers and domestic workers.
“Having a healthy relationship is the cornerstone of any employment arrangements, a healthy relationship can help reduce the possibility of miscommunication and misunderstanding,” said CDE Executive Director Shamsul Kamar earlier.
CDE was set up by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in January 2016, with the aim of advocating fair treatment of foreign domestic workers. Currently, 237,000 foreign domestic workers employed in Singapore and close to 300,000 workers will be needed by 2030, Mr Yeo said. Singapore is facing more challenges today to attract and recruit FDWs today than ever before, because neighborhood countries such as Japan and Taiwan have also opened up gates to recruit more FDWs.
So the competition to attract best foreign talent only gets stiffer in a market plagued by labour shortage. Hence, to ensure that Singapore retains its indomitable position as a destination of choice, it is important that the industry adopts fair employment practices and offers skill development opportunities for maids and foreign workers to grow, this will help retain key talent.