Issue 25, Prayer, World

Foreign Domestic Workers In Singapore

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Foreign Domestic Workers In Singapore


243,000 FDWs IN Singapore IN 2017 (MOM, 2017)



Read Dewi's Story

Dewi had never left home before. She didn’t even have a passport until a friend recommended that she try working in Singapore to earn money and support her family. In order to get into the country, she has to be trained, get a passport, and pay for her transport costs — all of which she has no money for. So she borrows some money in hopes that she will be able to pay it back soon. Over her two-year contract, she had only 12 rest days — one every two months. 717 out of 730 days of non-stop working, nearly 14 hours of work per day. X was not even given the freedom to cook or eat her own food. Instead, she had to wait for her employers to finish their meal, only receiving the unwanted leftovers every day. After two years of suffering these quiet indignities, she was ready to go home… but doing so might mean having to pay yet another agent’s fee, so she decided to stay for yet another two years…

Unfortunately, Dewi’s story is not unique, and of the 243,000 FDWs in Singapore, a number of them will experience something similar.

Why do they come to Singapore?

Just like any of us, most FDWs are trying to support their families. They come in order to provide education for their children, pay medical bills for sick family members, buy land to build a home, or simply to earn enough to pay their bills. Because of the difference in economic development, the salaries in Singapore are definitely much higher than what they receive back home. Some FDWs, especially those from the Philippines, even have university degrees, yet earn more working as a maid in Singapore than in a corporate job back home!

How are they treated?

While most FDWs enjoy good employers and a safe working environment, this is not true for some. Although cases of maid abuse is usually most widely reported in the media, physical abuse and violence is not the most prevalent form of mistreatment. In fact, only 26 cases were reported in 2014. However, FDWs experience quiet indignities every single day. Some FDWs do not get a weekly rest day even though it is part of the labour law in Singapore, and others shared that they experience limited access to communication with other people, are locked up with the homes with security cameras watching their every move, are not allowed to go outside, and are given a heavy workload with no rest. In addition, FDWs can be see as “less than” a regular person, and are constantly verbally abused or scolded over minor mistakes.

What happens to them?

For FDWs who experience mistreatment, these abuses are merely something to be tolerated and endured as they feel helpless or afraid to report their employers. In physical abuse cases, some may not even report it to the police as they may have had bad experiences with the authorities in their home countries and thus, do not trust that they will be treated fairly. Others are not even aware of the helplines they can call. In most cases, quiet indignities remain a perpetual issue, and go unreported until they escalate into physical abuse.

– Good Christian employers who protect FDWs and treat them with dignity (Lev 19:33)
– Local churches to invest resources in reaching out to FDWs and providing them a safe and loving environment in the church
– God’s protection over FDWs who face difficult employers and work situations
– God to raise up more God-fearing employment agencies who will take care of the FDW’s welfare

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