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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pilot scheme plans to send maids to Singapore

Pilot scheme plans to send maids to Singapore

130204 06a
Women trained to work as domestic maids at a recruitment centre in Phnom Penh in 2011. The women were to have been sent to Malaysia until authorities intervened for their release from the centre. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

Four hundred Cambodian women could be sent to Singapore  as soon as the middle of this year to work as maids  under a pilot scheme by the governments of Cambodia and Singapore.

The Post has obtained an internal circular the Singapore Ministry of Manpower sent to its labour agencies. In it, the ministry asks agencies keen to bring in Cambodian maids to submit proposals by February 18.

After they were trained, those foreign maids could begin work as soon as June this year, the circular says.

The project aims to study if Cambodian maids are suitable for Singapore employers.

Hou Voudthy, director-general of the Ministry of Labour, confirmed this would be the first time Cambodian maids had been sent to Singapore.

He did not specify when the women would leave Cambodia, but said they would be sent as soon as their training was completed and their safety could be assured.

Singapore’s provision of rights for domestic workers has long been criticised. Chief among them are low wages and a lack of rest days.

Last year, the government legislated a mandatory rest day for domestic workers after pressure from rights groups.

Singapore’s Association of Employment Agencies (AEA) hopes to address concerns about low wages by requiring that Cambodian maids be paid at least $320 a month.

AEA president K Jayaprema told the Post: “Cambodian maids are no different from maids of other nationalities. The work they do is the same, and so should be their pay.”

Last year, protests by the Indonesian government led to greater enforcement of minimum-wage contracts for Indonesian maids. Indonesians make up about half of Singapore’s 208,000 domestic workers and were traditionally paid less than their Filipino counterparts.

Jayapema said AEA would provide a hotline for Cambodian maids to call if they find themselves in in trouble.

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