According to the Ministry of Manpower, about 53 per cent of domestic helpers did not complete a year in a single household. The Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS) president K. Jayaprema reported that most of them left in the first three months, usually the most challenging period. She expects this trend to continue.
The AEAS started a scheme in 2013 where agencies that achieve a maid retention rate of least 42 per cent were given One or Two Star awards. By late last year, the retention rate had risen to 51 per cent. But it dipped this year to 47 per cent.
Citing strict employers as one of the most common causes of conflicts, Madam Jayaprema said there is nothing agencies can do if employers and maids do not get along. “They should encourage maids through compliments. Constantly pointing out their flaws only makes them depressed, especially when they might be homesick,” she added.
But maids should also understand that their employers may lead stressful lives, so trivial issues could set them off, Madam Jayaprema said. She advised giving new maids at least three months to adjust to their new environment.
One agent, who declined to be named, said: “Some employers expect maids to even teach their children English. They are not tuition teachers.”
Then there are maids with unrealistic demands, such as wanting their own room instead of sharing one with others in the household, she added.
An employer, 51,whose Filipino maid resigned within three months, said she was lazy and uncommitted in caring for her elderly parents. She said: “Apart from mealtimes, she refused to prepare food when my mother was hungry and would rather sleep.”
A maid, 41, said her employer, a housewife, made her clean the three-storey house for hours daily. Her employer was also unhappy when she served the same dishes for dinner constantly. She said: “I did my best. If (my employer) does not appreciate my food, then I should not work for her.”
But there are also success stories of maids who remain with the same employer for years. Next year, the AEAS will recognise 40 maids and employers with long service awards.
On how to sustain a harmonious household for years, Madam Jayaprema said: “It is all about building relationships.”
From The New Paper, November 2017
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