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Maids-to-Singapore plan still on track

Maids-to-Singapore plan still on track

A pilot program under which about 400 Cambodian women will become domestic workers to Singapore was going according to plan, the labour minister said yesterday.

The prakas, or ministerial edict, concerning the project had already been drafted in Khmer and translations were under way so the laws could be vetted by the Labour Ministry’s Singaporean counterparts, Labour Minister Vong Sot said.

The first batch of workers will travel to Singapore in July, with more in each successive month. In all, about 400 women will take part.

If the project was successful, the Kingdom might also send construction workers to Singapore, Sot said.

“This year, Singapore has opened its market to our workers. If the project is successful, we will be allowed to send more,” he said.

Singapore’s labour record is far from unblemished; days off for maids were mandated only in January.

But Sot said Singapore had much higher wages and better labour laws than other places where Cambodian maids have worked, such as Malaysia.

Horror stories are rife about women sent to Malaysia who have been abused and had their pay withheld for years.

Hou Vuthy, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Labour, agreed conditions were better in Singapore but said employers there were far more discerning.

“We need firms to train workers to speak better English and teach them about the laws in Singapore,” Vuthy said.

“There is a strict (rule of law) there, and we don’t want to see our workers commit crimes.”

Vuthy said response for the pilot project had been overwhelming. He did not say which firms had been selected, but checks with the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA) revealed three firms - Philimore, Ung Rithy Group and Sok Leap Metrey - will be participating.

ACRA president Ung Seang Rithy  said maids in Singapore would be paid about $320 a month. She said details of training would be available at a later date.  

Additional reporting by Danson Cheong

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