New campaign for maids to get weekly day off generates debate online

New campaign for maids to get weekly day off generates debate online

A video on social media for a new campaign in support of domestic workers rights has generated considerable debate online, with some claiming that the campaign video is insensitive towards mothers.

The #IGiveADayOff campaign, launched by foreign workers' rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), is aimed at urging employers to grant a day off every week to their domestic workers.

According to the video that has been released for the campaign, approximately 40 per cent of 222,500 domestic workers in Singapore are not given a weekly day off, despite a law making it mandatory that came into effect in Jan 2013.

The video, titled "Maids and Mums", shows mothers answering questions about their children, before juxtaposing it against the family maids' answers to the same questions.

For example, one mother thought that her young son had not set his mind on any particular ambition, while the maid said that he wanted to be a pilot, which was then confirmed by the boy.

In another instance, a mother said that daughter would not wake up when she had nightmares at night, whereas the girl herself revealed that she did wake up and would ask her "auntie" (maid) to sleep beside her.

According to the video, 74 per cent of maids had more correct answers than the mothers about their children.

The underlying theme of the video seeks to convince employers that domestic workers' absence is not an inconvenience, but an opportunity for parents to bond with their children.

The provocative video has generated debate online, with many netizens pointed out that "guilt-tripping" mothers was insensitive and offensive.

One commenter wrote on TWC2's Facebook page: "I agree with the important "legal day off" message but loathe that this ad plays on a (working) mother's guilt ... Pitting moms against maids is a ludicrous way to make this point."

Netizens' comments on Facebook and YouTube also questioned why the video only featured mothers and not fathers too.

In a statement on their website on Apr 23, TWC2 said the video had used mothers to represent parents for stylistic consistency.

"TWC2's belief is that a day off is a basic right any worker should have, independent of and separate from such a functional motivation of their employers. We would add that family bonding is the responsibility of both parents," the statement said.

seanyap@sph.com.sg

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