THE Ministry of Manpower has said that the maid levy is aimed at discouraging Singaporeans from employing too many maids, and it has also been said that abolishing the levy does not guarantee that employers pass the savings on to their maids ("Fewer maids remain with same boss for a year"; last Saturday).
One way to circumvent this problem and ensure that the pay in Singapore remains competitive is for the levy to be managed by the Central Provident Fund board as a provident fund for maids, garnering the same interest rate that CPF members enjoy.
The maid can withdraw the money only after completing two years of work in Singapore, or choose to leave it in the fund to accumulate interest if she carries on working here.
Such a fund will give maids an incentive to do their jobs well, thereby stemming the outflow of trained maids to greener pastures and saving employers time, money and effort in training new maids.
Second, a competent maid at home can improve her employer's productivity at work.
Freed from the burden of domestic duties, employees can focus on their jobs and go on childcare leave for fewer days.
For children who are frequently sick, a caregiver at home is a better option than institutionalised childcare.
Third, the presence of reliable maids to care for the frail elderly family members at home will remove the need to build and subsidise an increasing number of nursing homes.
It will also allow seniors to pass their days in the environment where they are the happiest, that is, at home and in the company of those they love.
As nursing homes inevitably employ foreign nursing aides, employing a maid to look after an aged parent instead would not make much difference to the number of foreign workers here.
Finally, the fund offers an automatic savings plan that earns superior interest rates than those offered by banks.
Instead of succumbing to the temptation of squandering their higher salaries, maids can use such a fund for their children's education or their retirement.
Anne Chong (Dr)