Mon, Dec 29, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Singaporean maids say they're happy


Foreign maids in Singapore work up to 17 hours a day and only half get one day off a month, but the domestic workers say physical abuse is not rampant, a survey showed on yesterday.

While one in six of 284 maids queried by The Sunday Times said their treatment could be better, 82 percent said they are happy here.

Most of the 140,000 maids come from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Others are from Myanmar and India.

Abuse of maids is a major concern of Singapore's Manpower Ministry, which reported 99 fell to their deaths while washing windows or doing other chores from high-rise apartments between 1999 and last June.

The courts are issuing harsh penalties on employers who beat or physically harm maids in other ways.

Those interviewed averaged 26 in age and earned an average of S$261 (US$153) a month.

Most are up by 6am and finish between 9pm and 11pm. Seven in 10 are allowed to take breaks during the day.

Only half get days off, and usually only once a month.

Fifty percent said they have their own bedrooms and eat three meals a day, usually the same food as their employers.

Three in 10 have been shouted at and one in 100 said they have been physically abused.

Verbal and emotional abuse is likely to persist, said Anthony Slim, vice president of the Association of Employment Agencies of Singapore.

"Calling maids `stupid' and threatening to send them back and deduct money from their wages will continue, because there's no way to verify it's taken place," the newspaper quoted him saying.

Knowing that maid abusers were in the minority was nothing to celebrate, said Bridget Lew, who chairs the Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People.

"There shouldn't be any abuse in the first place," she added.

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