By Kenneth Lim/channelnewsasia.com – From May 1, the minimum salary for domestic workers from the Philippines will be raised from S$550 to S$570, the Philippines Embassy’s Overseas Labour Office (POLO-SG) said on Friday (Mar 31).
In a notice to its more than 200 accredited employment agencies, the embassy’s Labour Attache Ramon Pastrana said this is due to the “fluctuation of exchange rates of the USD” in relation to the Singapore dollar.
The last revision for the minimum salary took place in 2012, where it went up from S$500 to S$550.
Singapore has about 240,000 domestic workers and about 70,000 are Filipino.
The Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) said the salary revision was not unexpected, on the back of several meetings and discussions between the Labour Office and employment agencies.
“It’s not just about increasing the salary,” said the association’s president, K. Jayaprema. “It’s still pegged to US$400, but because there’s an increase in exchange rate, this is a natural progression.”
But Ms Jayaprema acknowledged there would be “some concerns” among employers.
“Singapore employers are kind of price-sensitive, whether it’s about employment agency fees or salary,” Ms Jayaprema said. “And it’s not just about the basic salary. There will be a little bit increase in the compensation rate for the rest day.”
At least one maid agency Channel NewsAsia spoke to was in favour of the revised salary, saying it could help attract more high-quality domestic workers amid competition for such maids in Hong Kong and the Middle East.
“To stay competitive, we need to increase the salary, otherwise we will not have enough supply,” said Raymond Maids Employment Agency manager Matthew Lee.
“Currently, maids in Hong Kong have a higher salary, about S$770 equivalent,” he added. “With this increase in salary, we are able to attract more volume and better calibre maids into Singapore.”
TOUGHER STANCE ON PLACEMENT FEES
Besides the pay increase, Mr Pastrana also spelled out the Labour Office’s plans to take a tougher stance on employment agencies who collect “placement fees” by deducting a portion of a maid’s salary.
Placement fees are service fees paid to the agency for its work in facilitating employment for the domestic worker. This includes paperwork and negotiations with prospective employers, among others.
Currently, under Philippine law, agencies are not allowed to charge any placement fees to domestic workers. But in Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower allows agencies to deduct up to a maximum two months’ worth of a domestic worker’s salary for placement fees. Agencies may choose not to deduct any amount as well.
According to the notice, the Labour Office “received reports that employment agencies in Singapore continuously charge Filipino domestic workers placement fees through salary deductions of one to eight months”.
“Due to this alleged blatant disregard of Philippine laws and regulations and despite the many briefings conducted by POLO-SG to address the situation, POLO-SG hereby announces the following policies to take effect immediately,” it said.
These policies include “immediate suspension of documentary processing” for agencies who collect placement fees through salary deduction. All accredited agencies will also be required to submit updated name and contact details and salaries of domestic workers, as well as the name and contact details of their respective employers.
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