Use levy for maids' training and welfare

Use levy for maids' training and welfare
Using the maid levy to help set up a weekend hub for maids to spend their free time or to fund training programmes would not only send a signal that they are valued members of Singapore’s society, but also help address the long-running problem of a high turnover.

Every month, employers of foreign domestic workers here pay up to $265 in tax to the Government.

The "maid levy", as it is known, is meant to moderate demand by making it more expensive for families to engage a maid.

A review initiated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in late July, however, has prompted speculation by industry players that this levy is about to be reduced.

There is no clear indication whether or not there will be a cut.

However, if it happens, a reduction would certainly be consistent with the recent practice of the Government reducing levies to help families deal with the rising cost of hiring domestic help.

The last time levies were increased was in 1998, from $330 to $345. Since then, the levy has fallen - to $295 in 2005, then to $265 in 2007, where it remains today.

But instead of focusing on the amount, it would be better if the ongoing review goes beyond this to see how the money collected can be used to address a long-running problem in the industry - the high turnover of maids.

Official data last year showed that only 42 per cent of maids placed in households by agencies between October 2009 and October 2011 stayed with the same employer for at least a year.

There are two reasons for the high turnover. First, maids complain they are not paid enough.

Employers argue that they can't pay more as they are already taxed by the Government.

Second, employers bemoan the poor quality of the maids and ask for replacements. Agents counter that standards can be improved only if salaries are raised.

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