THERE has been some controversy over the decision by 17 maid agencies to raise the pay of new Indonesian maids from $380 to $450 a month ("Few existing maids have asked for pay rise"; last Tuesday).
Employers have expressed dismay while some maids who are already working here feel short-changed because their salaries will not reflect this rise.
Perhaps the Government could consider allowing a portion of the maid levy to be redirected towards increasing maids' wages, to reflect current market rates.
The Government has maintained that foreign domestic worker (FDW) levies are in place to manage dependence on maids. Yet the maid population has been increasing over the years and we now have about 196,000 FDWs in Singapore.
It is clear that there is a strong structural dependence on maids in this country. In fact, the recent salary hike is itself a result of such unrelenting demand, as our population increases and ages.
Without increasing the pool of options for financially strapped families in terms of childcare, elderly care and disability care, and without any attractive incentives and support for Singaporeans who choose to take on the roles of caregivers and stay-at- home parents, the FDW levy - with the normal monthly rate of $265 and concessionary rate of $170 - is not a deterrent.
Until this situation is resolved, the Government could consider reducing the maid levy. This would alleviate a working family's financial stress and, at the same time, help boost the salaries of maids.
Singaporeans may be used to paying maids a salary of $380 a month. If the maids work 12-hour work days with no days off, this works out to just a little over $1 an hour.
We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world; surely we can do better than this, particularly for a community of workers who are an integral part of many households' everyday life.
Stephanie Chok (Ms)