Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Foreign Domestic Workers: What lies Ahead When They Come to Singapore to Work? (by Peter Chan)

We have more than 160,000 Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) in Singapore who come from all walks of life; from the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. It is not uncommon to hear of horrible stories about employers badly treating their maids; verbal abuses, punishing work-hours, working in non-stipulated place of work, insufficient food, and withholding salaries. Also equally nerve-racking are stories about incorrigible maids who gallivant, demanding week-end offs after a contract has been drawn-up, poor work attitude, and engaged in mobile phone gossips. These constitute the minority but the truth is the ugly minority gets all the public attention.

Through these photographs, I hope we can better understand the work of the FDWs. I also do hope you can add suitable captions to each photo. Be fore-warned; some maids are employed for single-tasks while others do multi-tasking? I see the problem arises when a maid is employed for general household duties. This can be very difficult to legally and/or humanely define. Because they come from a different country, their social and cultural ethos may differ from us

Photo 1: Left: Window Cleaner in the morning, Middle: Car Washer at 6am, Right: Walking the dogs at 8am

Photo 2: Left: Removing a wild tree under the mid-day sun, Middle: Watering the plants at 5.50pm, Right: Balancing the plastic bags on a Saturday at the wet market

Photo 3: Left: Buying bread from 7-Eleven at 6.30am, Middle: Riding a bicycle to Cold Storage for the groceries, Right: Keeping an eye on child whilst looking out for “Mom” who is shopping nearby

Photo 4: Making sure doggy has its meal, Middle: Bringing the kid to school, Right: Wheeling “Ah Kung” to the out-patient clinic

Photo 5: Inside a “California Fitness” maid is also a feminine person. So what do you expect? Left: Shopping for that hair-clip, Middle: Must look trendy on her day-off at Snow City, Right: Secretly calling a friend at the public phone

Next round I shall feature the Ah Tiongs, the Prisaks and the Giris.


Icemoon said...

Peter! Photo 2 Left taken during our Jurong Line exploration :)

Victor said...

Add suitable captions to the photos? Ok, I will start the ball rolling with "Photo 1 Left": "Wow, I never knew that this is more exciting than bar-top dancing!"

But seriously Peter, how on earth did you get so many photo opportunities with FDWs?

peter said...

That's correct Icemoon. What intrigued me was she used a rusty kitchen chopper (those used for chopping thick meat/bones) to remove that parasitic tree. I asked her why she could not use proper gardening tools, she replied that her "Sir told her to use this...." Imagine if her friend did not hold the ladder and that ladder tilted, I can't imagine the consequences.

yg said...

seems like peter has enough maid friends to start an agency of his own. or he goes around catching (taking shots of) maids in nearly all kinds of situation?

household name said...

I thought maids are not supposed to wash cars? And whatever she is doing with the tree in photo 2 (left) - bet it's not in her work contract either.

Icemoon said...

The question remains - which one is his maid? Could it be 4 Left? I thought he has a cat, what about a dog?

I think maid can wash car bah, at least those in the 'garage', lol.

yg said...

hi household name, any task that we can do, the maid should be able to do and should do. by the way, our s'pore dollar is 'very big', you know.

and icemoon, it is not just for those with the 'garage'. at my hdb car-park, i have seen maids washing cars as early as 6.00 a.m.

Victor said...

For those who are interested, here's an anecdote on FDWs in Singapore which I've almost forgotten about.

Lam Chun See said...

I also recall reading an FDW-related annecdote here

stanley said...

Peter- The pictures of the maids show all aspects of maids' working life. I wonder whether you have a picture of a maid secretly spiriting her boy-friend into her employer's house during the latter temporary absence.

peter said...

Watch this space next time. Read the story about "Raja and Rani".

peter said...

The worst thing is to generalise about people (employer or FDW) and I know that writing this article is no easy task. That is why I said, it's the few that gets the public attention.

I have used 12 or 16 maids - Filipinas, Sri Lankans and Indonesians since the maids first came to Singapore to work in late 1970s. My 2 boys were brought up by them when we went to work BUT I made it point and reinforced that view to my boys; FDWs are not your servants. I also encountered trouble with maids who hanky panky and arguments with our ASEAN embassies. As a couple, I made sure I don't listen to one side of the argument. I also fired maids and send them off to the airport (making sure they get into the airport immigration area).

As a parent, I never saw maids as a substitute. I could say I was NEVER trained to be a parent but I saw that the day one marries, you ask for that responsibility to be place squarely on your shoulder. SO, I didn't feel bad about looking after the kids/making buddies with them despite my hectic overseas business travel (never home for more than 2 weeks and off again) or office politics.

The fun of is?

I learn about what it takes to live with others but I have no qualms to hire a good-looking maid so long she works and has a good attitude. I have also hired UGLY BETTY type where even the pork seller at the wet market also don't want to look.

Sometimes luck plays a part too. Sometimes one has to make that luck happen too.

PChew said...

Foreign maids did a lot of jobs not specified in the contract. Many employers wanted to have their money's worth. Example: washing a car saved the employer about $30 a month and so on.
If the maid is well treated such as having enough food and rest, she would not mind. Our maids do not wash cars.
My family have 4 happy foreign maids. We share the same food and not left over and no magee mee.