Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Indonesian maids' salary overtakes cleaning aunties' wages

More pay for new Indonesian maids by Saifulbahri Ismail
SINGAPORE - Indonesian domestic workers will soon cost more as agencies try to get more of them to work in Singapore.
MediaCorp has learnt that 17 employment agencies, who are major players in the market, will be increasing the monthly salaries of Indonesian domestic helpers from $380 to $450. The increment will take effect by this week and will only apply to new Indonesian maids.
Over the years, the supply of such helpers to Singapore has been dwindling as competition from places such as Hong Kong and Taiwan intensifies. Employment agencies indicate the shortage is severe. One solution - following a recent meeting between the agencies and maid suppliers from Indonesia - is to provide better salaries.
Nation Employment group director Desmond Chin said: "They are requesting us to match what is being paid to domestic helpers in Hong Kong, which is $650, and what is being in Taiwan, which is $800." - Today Online (read full report here)
Indonesian maids now have a minimal wage policy in Singapore but my local aunties and elderly folks cleaning toilets and clearing tables at hawker centres do not get them. Wow... just wow. *shakes head at the absurdity of it all*  

Don't get me wrong, I am not against the increase of maids' wages. I believe it is about time for them to have an increase as inflation grows. The grouse I have is just a few days ago, I have a good number of MPs debating regurgitating that it is unwise to have a minimal wage policy.

Does it make any sense to you? Yet these same MPs are not crying foul for increasing the wages of maids when it is locals who need the increase more. Maybe these MPs should be part of a ministry or portfolio to represent the domestic helpers. My union chief can jolly-well join them too.

I remember someone once said in response to increase the monthly allowance for destitute Singaporeans on Public Assistance Scheme in 2007,
"How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?"
To rub salt into the wound, I have these ministers bemoaning locals do not procreate enough to meet to the fertility rate. Was it our fault in the first place when a god once determined 'Two is Enough'?

The median wage in Singapore has not increased substantially for the longest time whereas inflation has rocketed sky-high. How does the government expect a dual-income working family, who really needs a maid to manage the kids or elderly parents, cope with the rising cost of living and the exorbitant childcare cost and the new wage increase for maids?

The government has been rehashing the story to the citizens that they should not expect a high salary lest we overprice ourselves out of competition in this global market. By the way a recent news article mentioned that 20% of the foreign talents here earning >SGD180,000 annually. They have been selling this idea that Singapore needs foreign labour because we locals do not want to do the menial work which these foreign resources take up. Then they continued braying that our economy depends on these foreign labour for sustainability because they are cheap.

But then maids are not cheap now, are they? So who is overpricing whom now? It sure is better to be a maid in Singapore as compared to a cleaning auntie or uncle as a matter of fact!

Let me compute the cost of hiring a new maid. It is not as cheap as what my ministers make us think foreign labour is cheap labour. Maybe compared to their million-dollar salary, it truly is worth peanuts. But I have digressed.

This is the estimated cost for a household hiring a maid:
  • Maid's salary - $380 monthly
  • Levy - $170 for those with kids
    I seriously don't know what this friggin levy is for because I don't get any service out of it except the government receives the money. Anything that happens to my maid is still my problem and cost.
  • Insurance - $350 yearly
  • Medical checkups - $60 yearly
  • This is aside from intangible housing cost, food cost, electricity and water utilities cost, medical leave when sick, doctor's fees, special occasions ang-pows (birthdays, Christmas, Chinese New Year) and transport EZlink top-ups.
    That's all I can think of for now. 
As compared to a cleaning contracting job which can go as low as SGD550 per month, I think maids have a way better deal. Maids don't pay for rent or utilities, mind you, or food and maintenance costs. But local aunties and uncles do.

The amusing thing is way back in 2007, the then SM Lee (now MM Lee) quoted,
"You know, the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government. You get that alternative and you'll never put Singapore together again: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again... and your asset values will disappear, your apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries, foreign workers." - (Straits Times, 5 April 2007)
I had blogged about it titled "Chambermaid vs foreign maid - got difference meh?" (read here).

Frankly to say, bring it on. I'd rather have my local aunties and mothers become my maids now. At least I do not have to pay for their utilities, or house them in my place. Not to mention paying for any airplane tickets for deportation and hefty fines should the foreign maids get pregnant. And I avoid paying this 'God knows what this levy fee is for'.Doesn't it sound scarily familiar to the mandatory annual TV and Radio license. *shivers*

So pray tell me again, are we better off with the cheap foreign labour coming in? Did my incumbent party forming the majority of the government give me a better standard of living? Did the daily cost of living come down to an acceptable standard equivalent to the median income, or perhaps the wages of the common man on the street increase? Did the GST really, really help the poor?

I sincerely wonder why they are representing me.


Anonymous said...

Your estimated household cost of hiring a maid should also take into account the agent fee (depending on the number of times you change agents too because of the pathetic supply of maids they have)

Anonymous said...

Your argument has a flaw. Local aunties do not want to be maids. So this position is being filled in by foreigners.

Kaffein said...

And the aunties and uncles rather continue to work as contract cleaners with less pay, less benefits and higher maintenance cost of living which they have to bear themselves.

So yeah my argument is flawed.... because

From my conversations with them, they'd rather not work but enjoy their twilight years. So yes they don't want to be maids, or cleaners either.


So yeah, m

Anonymous said...

Bro, what your wrote is absolutely truth. I agree with you, I am just waiting for the day and it will come soon. One problem this people (MP) who we elected in election do not represent us. They represent their BOSS. Maybe they never feel the pain to lose in election or to lose the comfortable chair. Remember the seat will not last long, seat tight will you can the ocean getting rough. Bro I like your comment very simple and understandable. even a low educate uncle and unty can understand, only 3M dollar mens can reads it.

jaelh said...

You're forgetting the huge, non-$ cost for foreign maids - they are away from their families, parents, children.

Cleaning aunties and uncles are not.

Of course their wages will be (should be?) lower - they are not giving their homes, their culture, their families to work. They do not leave and breathe their jobs 50 weeks of the year. They get to go home at the end of each shift.

Yes, wages are different, but you're comparing apples and oranges. (And yes! a minimum wage for everyone! that I can get behind)

Kaffein said...

You forgot that these uncles and aunties once gave up their time and lives to build this Singapore to be a better place which we are enjoying now.

You forgot that these people are not well-educated and now they have been edged out of the progress of society.

You forgot that places like Indonesia and Philippines have large lands in which the maids return to buy and plant rice. You forgot that these local uncles and aunties don't have land or a way of sustenance in their latter years.

And these are apples to apples because MM Lee compared our mothers and aunties to be foreign maids with a bad dose of government. Perhaps we are already experiencing it because the uncles and aunties lives are worse off than the maids these days. They don't even have anyone to stand for them anymore.

You forgot. I did not forget.


Indo chinese said...

Its the uncle and aunties fault for not investing for the future, and for those who did, they run successful businesses and enjoy the twilight years.

Anywhere in the world, it is a matter of whether you are a Labour or a Capital. My father could rise from poverty to own a business. His father could fall from riches to poverty from gambling. That is fair!

Sg govt already provide you with education to write an English blog. Yet you bite the hand that feeds you.

If you complain about costs, sit down and reflect on why you cannot earn MORE.

And you think planting rice is easy? Much easier to plant it in stocks, or gold or other liquid investments.

zian said...

That is a good.