In line with the Centre for Domestic Employees’ (CDE) aim to take a proactive and upstream approach in enhancing the Foreign Domestic Workers’ (FDWs) landscape in Singapore, CDE has been advocating for more transparent costing when it comes to the employment of FDWs.
There are about 237,000 FDWs in Singapore currently. Most came from Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar.  Through interactions and feedback gathered from the FDWs, employers, and employment agencies, CDE noted that the costs to recruit and deploy FDWs from overseas vary among the employment agencies. These costs typically run into thousands of dollars. There is a lack of clarity on what employers and FDWs are paying for. Most employers and FDWs are not aware of the actual overseas costs and fees for services rendered by the respective government agencies and employment agencies.
CDE strongly believes that it is crucial to work with the employment agencies in Singapore to itemise the various costs incurred from the source countries and the fees of local agencies for the services rendered, including the loans taken by the FDWs. With a clear breakdown on the cost of the various items, both the employer and employee can see the cost for employability skills, overseas employment preparedness or employment matching services, etc.
In the past few months, CDE had engaged various industry players, such as NGOs and employment agencies, conducted study missions to the source countries, and held discussions with employers and FDWs to determine the norms of the overall costs of recruiting a FDW.
From our findings, the overall indicative cost of recruiting an FDW from Indonesia normally range from about $3,800 to $5,800, which include the FDW’s recruitment and training costs of about $2,500 and $3,300.
As for Filipino FDWs, the overall indicative cost normally range from $3,100 to $4,600 including the FDW’s recruitment and training costs of about $1,200 to $1,800.

The overall costs typically include:

A – Foreign Agent Cost; B – On-Board Cost (local agent) & C – Government Charges.
CDE has started engaging the associations of employment agencies after our visits to Indonesia and Philippines early this year, and suggested that employment agencies come out with detailed breakdown of A+B+C above. The associations in principle support our call to develop a template for itemised bills. A work group has also been formed to work on itemised billing.
With itemised bills, CDE could then work with all stakeholders to determine whether (i) the costs are fair; (ii) should it be reduced and (iii) whether the various costs should be borne by the employers or the FDWs. With a more transparent costing, employers and FDWs would be able to make a more informed decision before they enter into an employment contract and disputes relating to it can also be reduced.
CDE would like to propose that the Ministry of Manpower include the “Transparency of Costs” as one of the criteria in the upcoming ‘Trustmark Grading Scheme’. 29 October 2016
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The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the ASEAN Trade Union Council.