This employment agency charges $15 a day while the domestic workers wait to be deployed to their employers. According to the worker who sent it, they had to sleep in the kitchen and were only given rice to eat. They were also barred from using mobile phones. She had to take this photograph secretly and hide her phone.
Such poor treatment is not uncommon since Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower employment agency licensing conditions do not set clear and detailed standards on how domestic workers should be treated. It only says that agencies are responsible for their “upkeep and maintenance” “provision of food” and “acceptable accommodation”. Inconsistent and patchy enforcement is a likely outcome of such vagueness. Therefore, whether the agency will be penalized or not is uncertain.
There are also no policies to protect whistle blowers. If complaints are filed, the women might lose their jobs. Under reporting is a huge problem due to a lack of incentives to name perpetrators. This results in unethical agencies getting away scot free.
During audit operations, the Ministry is also known to inform agencies in advance that checks will be done on their premises, giving them ample time to cover up their misdeeds. Such poor enforcement practices are one of the reasons migrant workers continue to suffer under these conditions.
Have you ever experience this while waiting for your deployment? I’ve heard stories about employment agencies making them work in their homes as a “training” and some are even ordered to do other chores for free.