Pregnancy leave

SINGAPORE - Maid agencies make it a point to remind their domestic helpers not to get pregnant during their stints here.

Despite the stern warnings, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told The New Paper that on average, fewer than 200 foreign maids in Singapore are found to be pregnant and repatriated annually.

That's less than 0.1 per cent of maids here.

The raw figures have been increasing steadily, but this is in tandem with the rising number of foreign maids.

MOM said the rate has been constant at less than 0.1 per cent, but did not give actual figures.

Last year, there were 209,600 foreign maids here.

Just last week, a week-old baby girl was found abandoned at a lift landing at Block 203, Serangoon Central.

Her mother is an Indonesian maid known only as Riney, 28.

Nine out of the 10 maid agencies TNP spoke to said that they encounter about one or two cases of maid pregnancies a year.

Senior overseas recruitment consultant for Advance Link International, Mrs Winnie Wang, who has been in the industry for 30 years, said her company repatriates about one maid a year for that reason.

MOM said that under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (work passes) Regulations, a foreign maid should not become pregnant or deliver any child in Singapore during the validity of her work permit unless she is already married to a Singapore citizen or a permanent resident with the approval of the Controller of Work Passes.

An MOM spokesman said that every foreign maid is given a handbook which educates them on their employment rights and the consequences of infringing work pass regulations.

She added: "Employers must notify the MOM once they are aware that their (maids) are pregnant, cancel the work permits and make arrangements to repatriate their (maids) immediately. Employers who do not cancel the work permits would risk losing their security deposit."

But some employers are more accepting of their maid's condition and are willing to risk this when they find out their maids are pregnant.

Mr Desmond Phoon, general manager of A. Pratama Employment Agency, said two of his maids became pregnant in the past year.

But their employers allowed them to go home to give birth before returning to Singapore to work.

Some maids attempt to induce abortions to get around the rules.

Terminated pregnancy

Mr Martin Silva, who owns Happy Maids Happy Homes, said about five years ago, a maid admitted to him that she had terminated her pregnancy by taking pills.

So how do agencies discourage their maids from becoming pregnant?

Mrs Wang said she dissuades her maids from having boyfriends and getting involved in sexual relationships.

Instead, she advises them to build close ties with their employers by spending more time with them and learning new skills, such as cooking, when they are free.

Mr Silva has a different view.

He said that it is normal for maids to have boyfriends and does not discourage them from having sexual relations.

"I often tell them that once they get pregnant, their future may go down the drain. But we cannot tell these grown women not to have sex. They also have their needs."

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