Employment agency allegedly makes domestic workers sleep in kitchen and forbids them from using phones

Photo: Jolovan Wham / Facebook

Singapore’s reputation for treating foreign domestic workers badly took another dip with a disturbing image that’s gone viral on Facebook over the past couple of days.

On Sunday, migrant worker rights activist Jolovan Wham uploaded a photo that depicted a group of women sleeping on mats in a kitchen — they were apparently domestic workers awaiting employment. One of the workers who spoke to Wham claimed that the (unnamed) employment agency they were placed with charged them $15 a day to sleep in the premises and only gave them rice for their meals. Their personal freedoms were said to be restricted by way of having a ban on the usage of mobile phones. The picture itself had to be taken secretly.

Photo: Jolovan Wham / Facebook

Aside from highlighting their harsh living conditions, Wham pointed out that the Ministry of Manpower doesn’t set “clear and detailed” standards on how domestic workers should be treated — thus the employment agency’s (and many others) bare minimal provision of resources and amenities. Whistle blowers aren’t protected due to a lack of policies too, Wham claims, and domestic workers could lose jobs when incidents such as these are reported.

“…poor enforcement practices is one of the reasons migrant workers continue to be enslaved,” he wrote.

In the comments section, foreign domestic workers of various nationalities noted similarly negative experiences in Singapore.

Though the Ministry of Manpower has repeatedly assured the public that it takes the welfare of foreign domestic workers seriously via numerous safeguards, the city-state has attracted a reputation for being a perilous, abusive environment for maids. Some Singaporeans have proven time and time again that they don’t care about giving equal rights to their live-in helpers.

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