SINGAPORE: Making it mandatory for maids to seek their employers' consent before borrowing from licensed moneylenders could drive them to borrow from unlicensed ones, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Low Yen Ling said in Parliament on Monday (Nov 19).
This was the reason why the ministry has not made it mandatory for maids to seek the employers' consent or disclose the borrowing, she said.
"We are concerned that if and when we do so, it may well trigger the foreign domestic worker towards taking more drastic actions such as gravitating towards borrowing from unlicensed moneylenders to avoid telling their employers," she said.
It is a "delicate balance", she added in response to Member of Parliament (MP) for Ang Mo Kio GRC Darryl David. He had asked if the ministry would consider getting maids to seek their employers’ consent to borrow from licensed moneylenders.
Mr David and Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin had earlier asked for statistics on maids who have taken loans from licensed moneylenders. They also asked if the authorities intend to place any restrictions on maids taking such loans, and what the consequences are for employers.
28,000 MAIDS BORROWED FROM LICENSED MONEYLENDERS IN FIRST HALF OF 2018
Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong said that 28,000 maids had borrowed from licensed moneylenders in the first half of this year.
The number is more than double last year's and almost 20 times the 1,500 in 2016.
Despite the large number, however, Mr Tong said that Moneylenders Credit Bureau data from 2016 to the first half of 2018 showed that the large majority of maids had repaid their loans.
The Ministry of Law announced two measures in October to strengthen protections for maids and other foreigners residing in Singapore from the effects of over-borrowing, Mr Tong noted.
The measures include imposing aggregate loan caps to limit the total amount that any foreigner residing in Singapore can borrow from licensed moneylenders and the introduction of a self-exclusion framework for all individuals, including foreigners, who borrow from licensed moneylenders.
As for those who borrow from unlicensed moneylenders, the numbers are smaller. Ms Low said based on numbers provided by the police, there were about 460 reports of harassment by unlicensed moneylenders arising from maids borrowing or acting as guarantors from 2008 to September 2018.
“We do not condone any borrowing from unlicensed moneylenders by foreign workers,” Ms Low added.
To send a clear signal of its strong stand, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had earlier announced that work pass holders would be repatriated and debarred from working in Singapore if they are found to have borrowed from unlicensed moneylenders.