One great advantage of living in Singapore? Affordable domestic help. While some expats find that a maid service once or twice a week is enough, others, particularly those with families, hire a full-time maid to help with cooking, shopping, cleaning and childcare. Most helpers in Singapore are from the Philippines or Indonesia and are diligent, conscientious women who are working to support their families back home.
Part-time maids are available for between $10 and $20 an hour, and can be hired independently or through a company. Full-time, live-in maids cost between $450 and $750 a month, depending on their level of experience. Employers must also pay a monthly levy (currently $265) to the Singaporean government, plus a one-time security bond of $5,000 (this is not paid upfront but covered under the insurance scheme). If you’re a working mother, the levy can be tax deductible. If the maid is out of the country for longer than seven days, you can apply for the levy to be waived for that period.
Employers are responsible for providing accommodation, insurance, food and medical care for their maids, in addition to hiring costs, airfares for bi-annual home leave, transfer costs and an annual bonus. First-time employers must complete a compulsory Employer’s Orientation Programme that provides them with a basic understanding of their role and responsibilities. This involves attending in person ($30), or taking a three-hour online course ($40). Visit mom. gov.sg for more details.
Most expats give their helper every Sunday and public holidays off, plus a two-week holiday every two years to their home country. To counter the instance of maids working without rest, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) mandated that, from 1 January 2013, all employers must give helpers one day off per week (or fairly compensate them, should they be required to work). Read up on how to take your helper on holiday with you!
Fees vary, but for around $400 a maid agency will find you a maid, and will usually give you the chance to interview several. Alternatively, you can source a maid yourself and complete the paperwork on the MOM website. Some expats who are leaving Singapore help their maid to find work by advertising on noticeboards, Facebook forums or by word of mouth. Note: be wary of taking the word of an ex-employer if they are transferring a helper and changing to a new one; they can sometimes be generous with the truth in order to “move them on”.
Tips from readers:
We asked our contributors to list some of the key questions to ask a helper during an interview.
• How long have you been in Singapore?
• What experience do you have with children?
• Are you good at cooking?
• What sort of dishes do you like to cook?
• Do you have any food or other allergies?
• How would you handle a toddler or tween’s temper tantrum?
• What are your expectations for the role (day-to-day tasks; days off; visits home)?
• Do you have any experience with first aid?
• Can you read and write in English?
• Do you have a reference letter from your previous employer?
• What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
• What do you prefer most out of cleaning, cooking and childcare?
• Who do you have to financially support?
• Do you have any outstanding loans?
• Do you have children of your own?
• What’s your medical history?
• Do you have a boyfriend in Singapore?
• How many families have you worked for and why did you move on from them?
For more helpful tips head to our living in Singapore section.