Is having a maid in Singapore a necessity or a privilege?
Listening to the radio this morning they talked about a report by the Human Rights Watch Group on how Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) are mistreated in Singapore.
Many views were made. Employers complaining about their maids, employers complaining about how other employers were mistreating their maids, employers complaining about other employers complaining about how other employers were mistreating their maids.
Which brings us to the question. Why are there so many maids in Singapore?
I think there are 2 main factors.
1) Singaporeans tend to have both spouses working. They work long hours. They have difficulty paying for expensive childcare (charged per child whereas a maid can look after a few kids at a time). They claim to have no time to do their housework. So there is a need and want (ie a market)
2) Maids are very affordable in Singapore. So there is a ready affordable supply.
Which is why there are so many maids in Singapore. Almost everyone seems to have one.
My household does not have a maid. So many times I have had acquaintances who have been so surprised by this. Almost invariably they would comment "How do you survive without a maid?"
Well last I checked, my wife and kids and I were all healthy, and the house was clean enough for us to be happy living in it.
I came from a family that had a maid as long as I can remember. My father has never done any housework whatsoever. My mother only did so when we were in transition periods when changing maids and there was no maid. She however did it with much complaints, especially how hard it was for her to juggle work and housework "chores". As for the kids, we were never allowed nor encouraged to do housework. When the maid was around we would be scolded for "helping" the maid. When the maid was missing, mum would just do the housework just so she could complain more to dad. The maids were either Filipino or Indonesian.
My wife came from a similar family set up too.
When we set up our own humble abode, I had arguments with my wife on whether we should have a maid. I did not want a maid. My wife wanted one. She was afraid that she would be saddled with all the housework while I sat around playing the Xbox.
After 5 years and having 2 kids aged 4 and 3, we now both agree that having a maid is NOT a necessity and it is also harmful to the development of our children. When our children are at their grandparents' place, they behave very differently. They call for the maid to do things for them, eg take their clothes for them, wipe out spills and mess that they make etc.
At home they do these things themselves.
I believe that one should be proud of their home. Not proud because you spent X thousand dollars renovating it but that it is truly your home. Housework is not a chore. How clean your house should be, is best decided by you. Who better to actually clean it? Take pride in doing it rather than shunning it. The children will see you doing it with pride and learn to do it as well.Thus making them feel that this is their home and they do have a part in maintaining it.
The civil service now operates on a 5 day work week. My wife and I work 6-7 days a week. There are some days when we get home earlier in the evenings. There is more than enough time to do simple things like changing the bedsheets, washing the toilets, vaccuuming the floor, mopping it, throwing the laundry into the washer, and ironing over the week. Kids as young as 4 and 3 can help out contrary to what people say. And they enjoy doing stuff that their parents do. A case of imitation. So I really do not see why people say they do not have enough time to do the housework. No one works 24 hours a day. Housework can be relaxing once you get into the groove of it.
Just last week, my wife asked me whether there was any housework to do. And I told her I had done everything over the couple of days before. She then said that I should leave some stuff for her to do! She actually missed doing some of it. Imagine a couple fighting over wanting to do housework!
The other thing about maids is that it teaches little children from a very young age to delegate duties, get others to fix their mistakes, and gives them their first exposure to Filipinos and Indonesians. Little wonder how many children grow up thinking Filipinos and Indonesians are there to serve them only. I feel that is bad for a child's development.
I acknowledge however that child care is a problem. It is not cheap. Most child care costs anything between $250 - $1000 a month per child. That can be a heavy burden especially when you have more than 1 child. Well the solution; refrain from having children if you can't afford it. Of course the government is encouraging couples to have more children. I think the readily available and affordable maid is one carrot for that. If I am not wrong some maid subsidy was part of the incentive package to have more children.
In other countries for example Australia, having a domestic worker is reserved for the very rich because it is relatively very costly. Domestic workers are not like our maids in Singapore. Think more like Bruce Wayne's (aka Batman's) butler Alfred. They are generally respectable jobs held by locals and they are covered by the Employment Act.
Quite a number of Singaporeans I know migrated to Australia and bought huge houses, only to find that there were no readily available domestic maids to help them clean and maintain the house and lawn. In the end they sold their big houses and moved to apartments and didn't like staying in Australia because they had to do household "chores" themselves.
Do we need maids in Singapore? The question then is how many percent of the world's households internationally have a maid? I would be interested to know the figures.
Perhaps Singapore might have the world's highest number of domestic maids per household. Something to be proud of? I don't think so.