Friday 22 January 2016

Bosses must now pay Filipino maids at least $550 a month

No official word yet, but maid agents say contracts submitted at embassy last week rejected over salary
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

Employers will have to pay at least $550 a month to employ a Filipino maid, up from $500 - the first rise in three years.

This comes three months after the Indonesian Embassy here told agents that the minimum salary for maids from its country must be $550 a month, also up from $500.

Although there was no official announcement from the Philippines' side, employment agents here told The Straits Times that employment contracts submitted at the embassy last week had been rejected as the salaries were too low.

The minimum salary for maids set by the Philippine government had been US$400 for over a decade. To avoid exchange rate fluctuations, the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS) had an agreement more than three years ago with the Philippine Embassy here that it would be set at $500 locally, said AEAS president K. Jayaprema.

As the US dollar has strengthened - US$400 is now worth around S$575 - the change is not unexpected, she said. "Salaries do increase over time; it is a natural progression," Ms Jayaprema said, adding that while some groups of helpers such as those doing caregiving and eldercare roles were already being paid above $600 due to better qualifications, the majority still received around $500 a month.

Employers also have to pay a foreign worker levy of $265 a month, although a concessionary rate of $60 is available for most households, for instance those with a Singaporean child below the age of 16 or an elderly person aged 65 and above.

The Philippine Embassy's labour attache could not be reached for comment yesterday. There are about 70,000 Filipino maids here, out of a total of about 227,100 maids.

Just two months ago, the embassy tightened restrictions on its nationals coming to Singapore to work as maids, as it started processing only five employment contracts per employment agency each week. A few months earlier, it halved the number of job orders, which are the number of workers an agency can recruit at one time, allocated to each employment agency.

A Manpower Ministry spokesman said: "Employment agencies and employers who wish to recruit foreign domestic workers should consider requirements administered by foreign governments or embassies carefully when making their hiring decisions."

The latest change may cause some delays for employers waiting for their employment contracts to be approved, said Ms Jayaprema. Some agents will have to reapply for a work permit with the new salary and redo other paperwork such as the security bond.

Mr Stephen Chia of 21st Century Employment Agency said he had been expecting the increase after the Indonesian Embassy increased its minimum wage for maids and the US dollar appreciated.

"This month we already started to play it safe and tell employers to anticipate the adjustment," he said.

Minimum pay for Indonesian maids at $550 from January 2016

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