Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Maids urged to upgrade themselves

By Alvina Soh, Channel NewsAsia, 22 Apr 2012

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob has urged foreign domestic workers -- who would have one day off every week from next year -- to make use of the mandatory day off to upgrade themselves.

While some choose to spend their day off shopping or catching up with friends, some Indonesian maids had been spending two days every month -- for the past two to three years -- studying.

The 52 maids on Sunday graduated with high school or pre-university certificates.

Since 2009, 1,789 Indonesian maids have enrolled in the Sekolah Indonesia Singapura to brush up on their sewing and computer literacy skills, as well as English proficiency.

With the mandatory weekly day off for foreign maids kicking in next year, Madam Halimah said she hopes more maids will take advantage of the extra time they have, to acquire new skills.

"[It would be] a chance for them to rejuvenate, to rest and to revitalise in different ways, connecting with their friends, with their community. But at the same time, also upgrade themselves, so [as] to benefit themselves as well as their employers too," Madam Halimah said.

According to the Indonesian embassy, there are currently 120,000 Indonesian maids in Singapore.

Sekolah Indonesia Singapura, a training school for maids, takes in up to 400 students a year.

With the extra day off, it expects an additional 500 to enrol in its courses next year.

It plans to roll out more courses on business management and will also hold weekly courses, instead of fortnightly.

Sekolah Indonesia Singapura principal Yaya Sutarya said: "I would like to give them the additional skills, like how to cook, and how to serve better, and how to be entrepreneurs.

"After they go back from Singapore, they can open their company in Indonesia."

Courses at the school costs S$100 per year.

Separately, Madam Halimah said her ministry is looking into ways to reduce Singaporeans' reliance on maids, such as by increasing the number of childcare places.

"We are one of the countries in the world with the highest number of foreign domestic workers and many other countries, especially the advanced, developed countries, their dependence on foreign domestic workers is not so high," she said.

"So we may have to think of other alternatives, rather than depend on increasing the supply or the number of foreign domestic workers."

About 200 more childcare centres will be built by 2018 to cater to the increase in demand for childcare services.

These new childcare centres will be built in areas that have higher demand, such as Woodlands and Bukit Panjang.

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