Maid agency hiring male caregivers

By Amelia Tan
The Straits Times
Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

SINGAPORE - A maid agency is planning to bring in a batch of about 30 male domestic workers trained in caregiving from Myanmar by the end of next month.

Homekeeper, one of the largest players in Singapore, says there is a strong demand for male helpers to take care of elderly men whom the more petite maids may have difficulty handling.

The agency is also ramping up recruitment to bring in about 60 male domestic workers from Myanmar in June, and more after that if demand is good.

This is the first time an agency is bringing in male foreign domestic workers on a regular basis.

Only a handful have hired men on an ad hoc basis at their customers' request in the past two years.

Agencies estimate there are fewer than 20 male foreign domestic workers in Singapore. Most of them are Filipinos who have been hired to care for elderly men. In contrast, there are 208,400 foreign maids.

Agents say the Manpower Ministry allows employers to bring in foreign male domestic workers if they have strong reasons for doing so.

Employers have to send a letter to the ministry explaining their situation.

Homekeeper managing director Carene Chin said many of her customers point out that their maids struggle to carry their wheelchair-bound or bed- ridden fathers.

The employers also find it is less awkward for their fathers if their caregiver is a man.

She added: "They feel that their father will be more comfortable to have a man to help them with showering and changing their clothes."

Ms Chin said hiring foreign domestic workers equipped with caregiving skills will allow more Singapore employers to avoid sending their parents to nursing homes, which are facing a shortage of places.

She said Singaporean employers like maids from Myanmar for their patient and hardworking nature. She believes that male workers from Myanmar will have a similar temperament.

Homekeeper is also sourcing women from the same country to be trained as caregivers. The agency will bring in about 60 of them by next month.

Both the male and female workers will be trained as caregivers in Yangon. They will be paid about $500 a month, higher than the average of $450 which foreign domestic workers earn in Singapore.

Most of them are high school or university graduates. But those who are trained nurses will be paid about $800.

Homekeeper has struck a deal with Singapore training course provider Grace Management and Consultancy Services (GMCS), as well as Yangon private school ACM School, to put all the workers through a 45-day caregiver course.

Conducted on ACM's premises in Yangon, the sessions will equip the workers with knowledge on dealing with the elderly and spotting health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

They will be taught in hands- on segments and classroom lectures, and will also learn conversational English and Mandarin.

GMCS managing director Richard Khoo said a team of its Myanmar doctors, nurses and trainers will conduct the classes and ensure the course is up to the mark.

GMCS runs the compulsory one-day Settling-In-Programme in Singapore which teaches first-time maids how to work safely and adjust to life here.

Employers with elderly parents said they are interested in hiring male caregivers.

Shipping company director Serene Tan, 41, said her Filipino maid has trouble shifting her 82-year-old bedridden father-in-law to prevent him from getting bedsores.

"Hiring a trained caregiver will also free my maid up to concentrate on doing household chores."

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