The government of Singapore has a choice. It has taken important steps to provide protections for migrant domestic workers and now has the opportunity to become a regional and global leader in setting standards that respect the rule of law and advance human rights. If it believes current measures are adequate and does nothing more, however, it will be condemning more domestic workers in Singapore to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse.
Singapore has demonstrated commitment to enforcing the legal protections that already exist, including those on physical assault and unpaid wages. Officials have undertaken a number of new initiatives which demonstrate a desire to create a well-functioning, mutually beneficial labor arrangement between Singaporean employers and migrant domestic workers. Yet a system that excludes a class of workers from labor protections, leaving them to work for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, for pitifully low wages is one that demands serious and meaningful reform. A system that allows employment agencies to pass huge costs on to domestic workers to the point where some face conditions akin to forced labor or debt bondage requires government intervention and regulation.