Calling FDW Stupid

is now way to start a 2-year relationship


It is every employer's hope that the housemaid she employs will be a real help to her, to be her right hand, and relieve her of the nitty gritty of housekeeping and to attend to the children. However, sometimes it does not turn out this way, especically if the domestic helper is a first-timer. The impatient employer may in a fit of frustration lash out at the maid and call her stupid. This is not a good way to start a relationship that is intended to last for two years.

Many a new foreign domestic worker has been called stupid for any number of reasons:

  • She cannot understand English, Singlish, Chinese or Malay, naturally. A Filipino maid's English is admittedly not the Queen's English and is, more often than not, akin to Taglish. Indonesians should be excused for not understanding what some Singaporeans pass off as Malay for while Malay and Indonesian may be similar, they are not identical.

  • She seems to take forever to complete a simple task. Simple from our perspective, but unfamiliar to a foreign maid not used to doing it at home. A foreign maid who comes from a place where the rate of unemployment is high and people have much time on their hands does not understand the need to do things quickly.

  • She does not even understand that she is exposing herself to danger when she touches an electric switch with a wet hand and continues to do so even after her employer has told her not to a million times.

Indeed it would be better to explain perhaps more than once what one wants. Communication is less of a problem with Filipinos and if language be a major concern, perhaps one should employ a Filipino rather than a Myanmese or Indonesian. But then, a Filipino expects a higher salary and more time off. Since around 2005 the salary differential between Filipino maids and their Indonesian counterparts have narrowed.

Even first-time Indonesian domestic helpers are also expecting a higher salary and time off. From January 2005, only those who can produce the equivalent a Junior High (9 years) or Secondary School (10 years) certificate of completion will be permitted to work as a domestic worker in Singapore. From 1st April, 2005, they will be required to pass an Entry Test (in English) as well. Mercifully, from the Indonesian maid's point of view, the Entry Test is scrapped.

With the implementation of the new requirements:

  • the first-time foreign domestic worker must be at least 23 years old;
  • she must have successfully completed 9 years of formal schooling if she is an Indonesian or 10 years if she is a Filipino - because the Philippine education system does not award a cert after 8 years of formal education.

Indonesian domestic workers are in short supply and the salary has consequently gone up, though marginally. As of July 2007, some of the more reputable agencies are getting $320 for first-timers and $350 for experienced ones. Currently (2015) first-time Indonesian maids get $450 though the Indonesian government wants employers to pay $500.