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Starting in Singapore: Employing foreign house help PDF Print E-mail
Employing Foreign House Help

Wages for house help depend on the size of the residence, the number of people in the family, the hours required and experience. Foreign help generally comes from around the SE Asian region - Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka and there are differences in cost dependant on the country of origin and experience. On average, full-time Filipino maids who cook, do general household chores and babysit earn about $300-$400 a month while Indonesian and Sri Lankan maids are paid an average of $230-$250 a month. The difference is mainly due to the superior english capability that a Filipino maid will generally possess. Indivual differences in wages are dependant on the maid's experience - meaning that a maid who is new to Singapore will earn less. Part-time gardeners and drivers are also available.

It is common practice for employers here to provide an air ticket for their maids to return home on annual leave. If the maid chooses not to take leave, then the employer should give her the equivalent of an air ticket in cash.  An air ticket to the Philippines (Manila) or to Indonesia (Jakarta) will probably cost no more than $350, because there are always special offers for maids.

Work permits are required for non-citizens, and employers of foreign domestic help must pay a levy, currently standing at $345 per month. In addition, you'll have to undertake an immigration bond of $5000 in case your maid breaks the law or the terms of her permit. The amount will only be paid if that happens.

The easiest way to obtain foreign house help is to go to any of the numerous maid agencies available in Singapore, especially in places like Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road and Peninsula Plaza at High Street. There you can take a look at the maids' biodata and handpick the one you require. The process usually takes from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on whether the maid in question has a valid passport in her home country. Different agencies charge different fees so be sure to call first before committing to one agency. The idea of paying an agency is to let them take the strain and cope with all the red tape, although there may not be as much as you imagine For those of you who want to know how to obtain a maid without an agency, we providedetails at the bottom. Otherwise, finding an agency isn't a problem - there is even an extensive collection all in one place here online.

We went to three separate agencies to get an idea of fees. From what we were quoted (May 2000), we can approximate the following costs:

Filipino maid: $800 - $900
Indonesian maid: $600 - $800
Sri Lankan maid: $500 - $800

It is very difficult to give any kind of concrete statement on costings, because Singapore maid agencies are in a fiercely competitive market and the above figures and what they cover can only be approximate at best. However, for this kind of figure, you can typically expect the following to be covered:

  1. Maid's airfare from her home country
  2. Insurance for the banker's guarantee - the $5000 bond which is payable to the Immigration Authorities if the maid absconds.
  3. Insurance for the maid against accident/injury.
  4. Compulsory medical checkup for maid on arrival.

Salaries are generally a matter for the employer and the maid to agree upon, although the agency may well specify a minimum figure. In any situation, it is best not to go below the minimum figures given below, since the sums involved are small indeed relative to the average workload of a maid. The higher salary is for maids with more experience - presumably the more proficient ones.

Filipino maid: $300 - $350
Indonesian maid: $220 - $250
Sri Lankan: $200 - $240

There are a few things which you, as an employer, should take note of:

  • Foreign help must be at least 16 years old and not older than 60, provided he/she is medically fit for employment.
  • Foreign domestic workers must undergo a medical examination and be certified medically fit by a local doctor within 2 weeks of arriving in Singapore.
  • It may be wise to draw up a contract between yourself and the worker, stipulating in writing terms of employment like wages, rest days, duties etc. Note: Whereas most filipino maids are entitled to at least a day off per month, if not per week, Indonesian and Sri Lankan maids are usually not In any case, the maid may also - without obligation - work on her day off if this is paid, although this is a matter between herself and the family. There can be issues like washing cars etc. which provoke problems - certain maids see it as 'outside' the house and therefore not their responsibility, but this is best resolved straight away between yourself and the maid. Again, there can be no hard and fast rules here. Discuss this with the maid and the agency beforehand to avoid any later hassle. Problems which cannot be resolved between yourself and the maid should normally be taken to the original agency to solve, assuming you have used an agency to hire the maid.
  • If you wish to apply for a work permit for a foreign domestic worker who is not in Singapore, you can obtain an application form from Singapore Immigration at Kallang, or submit your application on-line at WP Online
  • Treat your domestic help fairly. You won't believe some of the horror stories about employers ill-treating and even abusing their maids. It is also worth noting that employers found abusing their maid in any way will be punished even more severely than if they had been doing so to anyone else. Thus this helps to act as a protective 'disincentive'.

If you are unsure about the legalities and would like to avoid the paperwork, you should seek the advice and help of a good maid agency.

  • Employing a maid without an agency
    A maid may often be seen as a necessity rather than a luxury in Singapore. As the standard of living rises inexorably higher (as every taxi driver will remind you), the need for one - and often both - parents in a family to work to maintain luxuries such as purpose-built condominiums, Mercedes and the latest DVD gadget becomes ever more pressing. This explains the preponderance of maid agencies islandwide, especially in the shopping centres which have seen better days, such as Bukit Timah Plaza.

    However, nowadays, there may also be a need to cut out the middleman and avoid the expense associated with an agency. In other words - go it alone and find a maid on your own without lightening your pocket of S$1000-$2000 in agency fees. You could find a local maid, which would be easier but more expensive or try and find a foreign maid in the home country, normally one of the Philippines, Sri Lanka or Indonesia. Full details on how to go about this search here.

    Maids - the inside story

    Singapore is an ambitious country, where the standard of living is high and almost every citizen works hard to attain career success. In many homes it is necessary for both adults to work in order to lead a comfortable lifestyle and sustain a family. Due to this, live-in maids are becoming the norm. Without them, some households would crumble.

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