MAID placement fees have two components - overseas supplier costs incurred to recruit, train and process out the maid; and the local employment agency service fee to find an employer for the maid, process the work permit application, and provide orientation training and after-sales services ("Placement fee should be tied to maids' training" by Ms Agnes Kwok Sook Yee, March 4; and "Levy placement fee only on first-time maids" by Mr Francis Ho See Tong, Monday).
Placement fees are borne by the maid. The employer pays this in advance and on behalf of the maid, and gets a refund from the employment agency if there is premature termination of the maid'semployment.
The employment agency charges agency fees to the employer, to find a maid that matches the employer's requirements.
Therefore, the total cost of finding and matching a maid with an employer comprises the placement fees plus the agency fees.
The Ministry of Manpower has capped employment agency service fees paid by the maid to a maximum of two months' salary for a two-year employment contract, and the same amount for transfer of the maid between employers.
Unfortunately, there is no uniformity in practices among source countries.
For example, under the current Indonesian and Philippine schemes, employment agencies are prohibited from charging the maid a service fee, but this is allowed by the Ministry of Manpower.
The disparate practices will continue for some time, but we are working with foreign government agencies to make them fairer to all parties.
The reality is that the maid will bear less of the placement fees, while employers have to pay more in agency fees in future.
Regional countries are developing rapidly, and they have implemented policies on placement fees and salaries to protect their overseas workers.
In addition, Singapore faces strong competition for maids from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Middle East and even China.
The cost of getting a maid will increase in future due to competition and higher training costs to prepare less-qualified maids for employment here.
We strive to balance the various parties' interests and requirements, so as to maintain maid supply from all source countries to Singapore.
We are also formulating a new accreditation scheme to professionalise the industry, and producing a publication to enlighten employers on how to find accredited employment agencies and on their obligations to their maids.
This will help employment agencies and employers to understand and prepare for future industry changes.
K. Jayaprema (Ms)
Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore)