Channel NewsAsia

Inappropriate display of foreign domestic workers "unacceptable": MOM

The Manpower Ministry says it visited two employment agencies singled out in an Al Jazeera story, for displaying Filipina domestic workers as "available for hire at cheap or discounted prices", but did not find any inappropriate display.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says inappropriate display of foreign domestic workers at employment agencies in Singapore, or advertising them as being "available for hire at cheap or discounted prices", are "unacceptable" practices.

It was responding to recent Filipino media reports, based on an Al Jazeera story about the treatment of Filipino maids in Singapore. It also follows news that the Philippine government has barred two employment agencies Homekeeper and Budget Maid from recruiting foreign domestic workers from the Philippines.

The ministry visited the employment agencies concerned and said it did not find any inappropriate displays of foreign domestic workers.

"MOM requires employment agencies to be responsible and accord basic respect in their practices to both their clients - the employer and the foreign domestic workers - and expects them to exercise sensitivity when marketing their fees or services," the ministry said in a statement sent to Channel NewsAsia.

The ministry also noted that the Filipino labour attaché in Singapore, Mr Vicente Cabe, had told the Straits Times that based on his observations, the Al Jazeera article "doesn't seem to have basis". While he saw some foreign domestic workers sitting on one side of a room at some agencies, waiting to be interviewed by clients, "it seems a bit exaggerated to say that there is anything wrong with that".

MOM clarified that even though the Al Jazeera article highlighted that some maids could be seen demonstrating household or care-giving chores in employment agencies, it is "not unreasonable" for foreign domestic workers to be performing such chores there, as some of the agencies have training facilities on their premises.

"The same story also suggested that some foreign domestic workers were not treated well while in their employment agencies' care. MOM's rules are clear that employment agencies have to ensure the well-being of foreign domestic workers in their care," MOM stated.

The ministry says it proactively audits employment agencies in Singapore, and these agencies are informed that they are not allowed to restrict foreign domestic workers' movements, or make them remain outside the agencies' premises against their will.

MOM says it will send an advisory to all employment agencies on this matter.

Separately, the Philippine Embassy in Singapore told Channel NewsAsia it will continue to conduct checks at maid agencies, especially during weekends, when human traffic is high. If all goes well, the embassy will submit a report to Manila within a week, and the ban on the two employment agencies could be lifted as soon as a month's time. 

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