Saturday, May 31, 2008

No Days-off for FDW (Foreign Domestic Workers): Letter to MOM and newspaper editors

NB: The reply from MOM at the bottom of this post.

Hi friends,

I have written the following letter to the editors of some newspapers and MOM ( Ministry of Manpower).

The letter is self-explanatory as is my disappointment.

From surveys, only 50% of our FDW ( Foreign Domestic Workers ie domestic maids) have a day-off a month. This means that 50% of about 200000-250000 FDW's work almost 365 days a year!

My views are well known on this and I have already written to the newspapers and on my blog several times already.

It seems that the government is under no pressure at all from Singaporeans to change its stance. It seems that it is too much to ask that families chip in to help look after junior or the elderly's in the home! Not one day a week- not one day a month-not one day a year!

I wonder how the families in countries where having maids/butlers are the privilege of the super-rich survive?

Anyone who does not know how to wash clothes, dry clothes,iron clothes,mopping the floor etc please email me. I will teach you! My cooking sucks but everything else I can do. It is simple!

I have not changed diapers for decades now but it is not difficult! Taking care of the senior folks is just taking the time to be with them and loving them!

Any idea how else we can help achieve the aim of having first world working environment by getting one day off for all workers at least once a week? (not just once a month).

How can NGO's and maid agencies do their part? Grassroot organisations can do their part in showing indignation too? Don't always have to agree with everything the MP or Minister say- they are not always right and should be told that!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

PS: On MOM's website- they promise to reply in 3 days. I will give them time to revert to me.

The Letter:

28 May, 2008

Dear Editor,

I am deeply disappointed that the Manpower Ministry (MOM) has once again decided not to legislate a mandatory rest day for foreign domestic workers (FDWs).

Why FDWs need a rest day

The arguments for such a rest day are already well known and include:
1. allows these workers to relax and unwind from stressful working environment
2. allows abuses to be reported
3. to have to work without rest is akin to slavery

To have a standard contract which provides for rest days but with an option for the FDW to be compensated should they be made to work on the day off is as good as not having such a contract.

The MOM has also mentioned in a previous response to the “Daysoff” campaign by some NGO’s that “many steps have been taken to enhance the protection and support for FDWs”

How does MOM protect and support FDWs?

Could the MOM tell us:

1. How does it know that the FDW voluntarily works on her rest day? The employer says so?

2. What constitutes fair compensation in lieu of this rest day? Trust the employer to do the right thing?

3. In extreme cases where FDWs are not allowed to use phones or socialise with neighbours, what are the available avenues to report abuses?

4.Would it work with NGOs to have a system where those FDWs who do not have a rest day are checked on at a regular basis to ensure their continued welfare?


The MOM has missed a golden opportunity to seize the moral high ground and put in place policies which better reflect a First World nation. Instead it has succumbed to pressure and chosen the status quo- the easy way out.

It will be a long time before Singaporeans learn that taking care of their elderly and their babies are the shared responsibility of each family member. And that the FDW is a worker, not a slave!

Cc: Ministry of Manpower

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

9th June 2008 (Reply from MOM)

Dear Dr Huang,

I refer to your letter dated 28 May 2008.

2 The standard employment contract for a FDW provides a contractual basis to agree upon the terms of employment and employment benefits for the worker. The contract currently provides for an FDW to be given rest days, and by mutual consent, that the FDW be compensated if she forgoes taking the rest day. This allows for a flexible way for both parties to discuss and agree to any contractual obligations. Legislation to mandate rest days would instil rigidity, and may not be in the interests of FDWs who may prefer to forgo her day off in lieu of compensation. Prescribing mandatory rest days will also result in inconvenience for households since the work duties required of FDWs vary. For example, some households may have elderly or infirm members with special needs who require constant attention, and may find it difficult for the employer to balance his work and family commitments if the domestic worker is away for a prescribed period every week. The Ministry is therefore of the view that having a standard employment contract provides flexibility for both the employer and the FDW to meet their respective needs.

3 Regarding your queries on alternative avenues for FDWs (beside calling the embassies, NGOs, Police and MOM's helplines) to report abuses, you may wish to know that Employment Agencies are required (under accreditation criteria) to conduct house visits or call to check on the FDW's well-being especially during the initial period of employment to ensure that the FDW is adjusting well to her new work environment. MOM also randomly call up and interview FDWs, especially those who work here for the first time to find out if they have any well-being issues. These measures directly reach out to FDWs and provide them with an opportunity to report on any maltreatment.

4 We would like to thank you for your concerns and feedback on the matter.

N S S (Ms) (Name disguised)
Customer Relations Executive
Customer Relations Branch .Foreign Manpower Management Division. Ministry of Manpower .

PS: Not published. Reply by MOM above


family man said...


If we have a caring government and caring society, the government would have included a proviso that China workers coming to work in singapore be given a day off every week. I recalled the Straits Times writeup- about Male China workers working 14 hour week, in hawker centres washing dishes with 2 days off per month. This is the new reality in Singapore and no one was complaining. Not any of those agencies.

In fact, it is a form of indentured slavery for these domestic workers, and the govt will keep this to make the female citizens here continue to be in the work force instead of being stay at home mom.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi family man:

Singapore (govt and society) is uncaring/soulless.

If there is uproar from the majority about how any worker in Sg can be denied a day of rest, the govt surely will bend to this pressure. Instead, the forum editors print letters from FDW's employers about how wonderful they are to their workers ( that they eat the same food & get to sleep etc). So we expect FDW's to eat left-overs or dog food?

Anywhere in the developed world, this kind of employment contract will not survive public scrutiny.

Yes. It. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Not. In . This. Soulless. Place.

Where Money is KING!