Singapore would never have achieved so much without the support of an army of maids from the Philippines and Indonesia, silently cleaning homes and looking after kids while their employers go out and conquer the world.
But not everybody is comfortable with having an omnipresent live-in maid, especially when space is at a premium in land-starved Singapore.
The only alternative, other than doing your own household chores, is to hire a part-time cleaner. However, this is an option few people look into, because of the perception that it's expensive.
But is that really true? Let's investigate.
How much does it cost to hire part-time cleaners in Singapore?
Part-time cleaners can be hired either through agencies, or through word-of-mouth.
Fees are usually charged by the hour or by blocks of 3 or 4 hours. The cleaner will be engaged to work a certain number of hours at regular intervals. For a 4-room flat, 4 hours of cleaning a week would probably be appropriate.
Currently, the market rate for part-time cleaners is about $50 to $60 for blocks of 4-hours, or $15 to $19 per hour.
Cleaners charging an hourly rate will usually impose a minimum number of hours (usually 2-4 hours) per visit. All in all, you can expect to pay at least $50 to $60 per visit.
Is there a difference between hiring an independent cleaner or one from an agency?
While agency prices might be a wee bit higher than those charged by independent cleaners, agency cleaners also tend to be a bit more reliable in the sense that they will show up no matter what happens. If the cleaner is unable to make it, the agency will dispatch another to do the job. And if you have any complaints, you can simply request a change of cleaner.
With independent cleaners, however, it really depends on the individual, so be careful where you get your recommendations from. Some people have complained about cleaners cancelling on them at the last minute or slacking off when unsupervised.
What does a part-time cleaner do?
Whilst maids have been known to get saddled with all manner of tasks, from picking the kids up at school to going to the supermarket, a part-time cleaner's tasks are much more narrowly defined.
Other than mopping, vacuuming and dusting, part-time cleaners will also clean your toilets and kitchen.
They can also do the dishes, do the laundry and iron clothes if you wish, although you should note that that might take time away from more important tasks.
Is it worth it?
Assuming you hire a part-time cleaner to do a 4-hour clean-up of your home every week, you're looking at paying approximately $200 to $240 a month.
That's certainly lower than the salary of a live-in maid, which tends to be about $500 to $750 a month. However, a live-in maid will be able to look after kids, cook meals and basically be on-call all day, every day. For households that need that kind of help, it makes more sense to hire a maid.
However, for those who really just need some help cleaning, a part-time cleaner is the way to go. Even if you're not the OCD type who cringes at the sight of a single speck of dust, having someone do your laundry and dishes can be a very time-saving prospect.
What's more, if you are sharing your accommodation with several people (e.g. you're renting out a room in your flat to a tenant, or you live with several flatmates) you can split the cost of the cleaning service.
If you go on holiday or decide to clean up after yourself, you can always save money by forgoing the cleaning service for a week or two.