Employment agencies should itemise, standardise, and make transparent a clear breakdown of the costs associated with employing foreign domestic workers (FDWs), said the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) on Saturday (Oct 29).
In a statement, CDE, a unit of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said that there is currently “a lack of clarity on what employers and FDWs are paying for”, with most employers and FDWs “not aware of the actual overseas costs and fees for services rendered by the respective government agencies and employment agencies”.
These costs include fees charged by local agencies in the source countries, and even loans taken on by the FDWs in order to find work in Singapore.
With a clear breakdown on the cost of the various items, both the employer and employee can evaluate and compare the cost for employability skills, overseas employment preparedness or employment matching services, said CDE, which also proposed that the Manpower Ministry include transparency of costs as one of the criteria in the upcoming Trustmark grading scheme.
There are about 237,000 FDWs in Singapore. According to CDE, the costs to recruit and deploy FDWs from overseas – which typically run into thousands of dollars – vary among the employment agencies.
For example, the cost of recruiting an FDW from Indonesia ranges from S$3,800 to S$5,800, including recruitment and training costs of about S$2,500 to S$3,300. Meanwhile, the cost of recruiting a Filipino FDW ranged from S$3,100 to S$4,600, including recruitment and training costs of about S$1,200 to S$1,800.
These findings were the result of months of work, said the CDE, which included dialogue with various industry players, such as NGOs and employment agencies, study missions to the source countries, and discussions with employers and FDWs.
It found that the overall costs typically include three components: Fees to a foreign agent, on-board fees to a local agent, and Government charges.
CDE added that it has started engaging the associations of employment agencies in Indonesia and the Philippines, and that the associations are supportive of the call to develop a template for itemised bills that show a breakdown of the three components.
A work group has also been formed within CDE to work on itemised billing. With itemised bills, CDE said that it could then work with all stakeholders to determine whether the costs are fair and if various costs should be borne by the employers or the FDWs.
CDE also noted that with more transparent costing, “employers and FDWs would be able to make a more informed decision before they enter into an employment contract and disputes relating to it can also be reduced”.