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Going around the system to meet demand for maids

The average time it takes to recruit, train and process the documentation for a maid is about two months, but many employers are unwilling to wait.

SINGAPORE: With maid agencies often under pressure from employers to make swift hires, it is not unheard of for some of them to turn to unlicensed recruiters in source countries, industry players say.

Although maid agencies need to be accredited by the Philippines Embassy in Singapore (a condition is that they have to partner with licensed recruiters in the Philippines) to bring helpers here, some go around the system to meet the demand, said agencies TODAY spoke to.

The issue of illegal recruiting was thrown into the spotlight when Singaporean Ms Yvonne Phua, 55, was arrested in the Philippines last Friday – along with a Filipino couple, Mr Michael and Ms Joy Abellar – for their alleged involvement in the illegal recruitment of maids for a Singapore employment agency. Ms Phua is accused of helping to train maids there despite not being licensed to do so – something she denies.

Agencies in both Singapore and the Philippines have to process documentation for domestic workers before they can enter the country.

This long process sometimes makes it difficult to meet the demand of employers who need domestic workers, some as soon as one week, forcing many agencies to turn to unlicensed recruiters.

Checks with eight maid agencies found that the average time it takes to recruit, train and process the documentation for domestic workers in the Philippines and Indonesia is about two months, before they finally arrive in Singapore.

“Many agencies find having to go through the embassy processes actually quite tedious because it takes a longer time to recruit candidates,” said Association of Employment Agencies president Ms K Jayaprema. “Employers are very impatient; they want their girls to arrive in a week or 10 days.”

Mr Edmund Soon, owner of FC Maid Agency, said to beat the stiff competition in the industry, agencies would turn to illegal recruiters to meet employers’ demands.

“For us here, we just need to get approval from the ministry and the maids can come in. However, it is the source countries that have many regulations to follow. That is why some agencies try to bring in the maids directly by telling the immigration officials that they are coming in as tourists,” he said.

The number of transfer maids, who are available for immediate hiring, is not enough to meet the demands in the market, he said.

Other maid agencies have tried to circumvent this problem by recruiting maids from Myanmar.

Despite catering to a smaller pool of employers, Myanmar workers can be brought into Singapore within a few weeks as the country has not yet worked out an accreditation scheme.

Of the eight maid agencies TODAY contacted, two have turned to recruiting from licensed training centres in Myanmar.

Ms Yvonne Ho, owner of Maid Society, said there were just too many restrictions in place for Filipino and Indonesian maids. “It is very fast in Myanmar. For those who do not have a passport, we just need around 10 to 14 days to get a passport.

“Once the employer has confirmed the maid and the passport is ready, we will do an application to bring her into Singapore,” she said.

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