More maids leaving household within year
Unrealistic expectations, impatient employers add to conflicts at home
The increase in the number of maids who failed to stay with the same employer for at least a year has sparked concern.
According to the Ministry of Manpower website, about 53 per cent of maids did not complete a year in a single household.
Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS) president K. Jayaprema told The New Paper most of them left in the first three months, usually the most challenging period. She expects this trend to continue.
The AEAS started a scheme in 2013 where agencies that achieve a maid retention rate of least 42 per cent were given One or Two Star awards.
By late last year, the retention rate had risen to 51 per cent. But it dipped this year to 47 per cent.
Madam Jayaprema, 48, said there is nothing agencies can do if employers and maids do not get along.She cited strict employers as one of the most common causes of conflicts.
"They should encourage maids through compliments. Constantly pointing out their flaws only makes them depressed, especially when they might be homesick," she added.
But maids should also understand that their employers may lead stressful lives, so trivial issues could set them off, Madam Jayaprema said.
Constantly pointing out their flaws only makes them depressed, especially when they might be homesick.Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) president K. Jayaprema on how employers treat maids
She advised giving new maids at least three months to adjust to their new environment.
One agent, who declined to be named, said: "Some employers expect maids to even teach their children English. They are not tuition teachers."
Then there are maids with unrealistic demands, such as wanting their own room instead of sharing one with others in the household, she added.
An employer, 51,whose Filipino maid resigned within three months, said she was lazy and uncommitted in caring for her elderly parents.
She said: "Apart from mealtimes, she refused to prepare food when my mother was hungry and would rather sleep."
A maid, 41, said her employer, a housewife, made her clean the three-storey house forhours daily. Her employer was also unhappy when she served the same dishes for dinner constantly.
She said: "I did my best. If (my employer) does not appreciate my food, then I should not work for her."
But there are also success stories of maids who remain with the same employer for years. (See report on right).
Next year, the AEAS will recognise 40 maids and employers with long service awards.
On how to sustain a harmonious household for years, Madam Jayaprema said: "It is all about building relationships."
Domestic helper was 'never a maid but family'
When Madam N. K. Ambika started working for Madam Selvamary Prakasam 18 years ago, she was reprimanded frequently.
Madam Selvamary, now 62, was a warrant officer with the Singapore Armed Forces and ran the household in a regimented manner.
But the two women grew to love each other.
Madam Selvamary wanted to nominate Madam Ambika, 53, for Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year last month but unfortunately missed the deadline.
Madam K. Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS), which organises the annual competition, said: "Exemplary workers (like Madam Ambika) should be recognised.
"These workers don't necessarily speak English but have stayed with their employers' families for many years."
More employers - 480 this year compared with about 200 in the previous two years - are nominating their maids for the award, the AEAS told The New Paper.
Madam Selvamary said Madam Ambika would bathe her late father, who had dementia, change his diapers and endure his morning outbursts.
She even carried him down the stairs before a lift was installed in the block.
"She was never just a maid but family. She had the authority to discipline my children," said Madam Selvamary,
The children are now in their 30s, and Madam Ambika was proud when they got married.
She said: "It was as if my own children were getting married. (Madam Selvamary) insisted I attend (the weddings) as a family member."
Madam Ambika, who is returning to India for good next month, added: "I will always remember the care my employer has shown me."