Survey Showed That 60% of Domestic Workers in S’pore are Being Exploited


How many of you grew up with a maid?

They are the backbone of the household, from cleaning the house, shopping for groceries to putting food on the table (literally).


In a way, they are part of the family and they do spend more time with your kids while you are out making dough.

But how many of us take a step back and think what’s it like being in their shoes?

They are probably scared or worried as they are away from their family in a foreign land.

Their closest thing they have to a family over here would be their employers.

Unfortunately, their “family” are exploiting them.

According to a report by Research Across Borders, 60% of maids in Singapore are exploited by their employers.

800 domestic workers and 80 employers were interviewed for this report-“Bonded to the System”.

They are overworked

Singapore is the second country in Asia to have the largest number of documented foreign domestic workers, made up of mostly of women from Indonesia (32%) and Philippines (56%).

If the report is used as a representation of Singapore as a whole, more than 140,000 maids are being exploited.

90% of workers report excessive hours or days, while 84% mentioned that they worked more than 12 hours a day and 41% said they were made to work on their off day.

Umm, its called an off day for a reason.

You wouldn’t want your boss calling you and bugging you during work, am I right?


“Sunday is our off days, meanwhile Sunday still normal day, need to work first, tidy the house, walk the dog out, prepare their breakfast, clean toilet first … then leave the house around 9 or 10 and must reach the house before 5 or 6 (at night),” said one worker.

Another said, “”After reach out must do house work again, wash car, cook dinner, same routine … How you can consider that Sunday is off day? Please be good to us also. We are humans not robots.”


That is one common thing I have seen and heard from people who have maids.

They tend to dehumanise them so they can subconsciously justify their unreasonable actions.

Psychological and physical violence

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as there have been numerous cases where employers would exercise their “authority” in extreme ways.

One in four reported that they were a victim of physical and psychological violence—verbal abuse, name-calling, spitting, hitting and pushing.

Research Across Borders Director, Anja Wessels mentioned that sexual violence was being underreported as they might feel shameful of the situation or they are scared that they might lose their jobs or feel that the incident was their fault.


Protection for foreign domestic workers is little to none

Even though domestic workers make up of 17% of Singapore’s total workforce, they have very little protection when they work here.

Singapore does not guarantee them a minimum wage and their guideline on working hours only call for a “reasonable workload”, CNN reported.

“Singapore substantially relies on the migrant workforce, not only foreign domestic workers but also the hospitality workers and the migrant workers.”

She adds, “”They are often called the invisible workforce.”

Why are they still working here?

You might be thinking, if it so bad, why are they here?

Well, everything isn’t black and white, my friend.


You think they want to uproot their entire life to do household chores in a foreign land?

“These women mainly endure these situations out of economic stresses … in one third of the cases in our study, the worker was the only bread winner in their family, which means if they do not work and send money back home, they will threaten the survival of their family,” Wessels said

Not to mention they only earn an average of $515 a month and if they send money back to their family, they are left with about $225.

Another jarring finding—more than a third of domestic workers were forced to pay for their own necessities such as food and toiletries even though the government guidelines have stated otherwise.


This report may have just revealed the dark underbelly of Singapore’s foreign domestic workers.


According to CNN, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower didn’t respond to a request for comment.

For those who have maids, I hope this is a food for thought article.

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