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To the Singapore Government

Provide equal and comprehensive legal protection to migrant domestic workers, by:

  • Amending the Employment Act and Workmen’s Compensation Act to provide equal protection to domestic workers, including regulations on rest days, hours of work, salary deductions, termination of contracts, and compensation for workplace injuries and occupational illnesses.
  • Establishing and periodically reviewing a national minimum wage to address domestic workers’ vulnerability to wage exploitation. The National Wages Council should also investigate and recommend policies that promote equal pay for equal work in the domestic work sector.
  • Creating a standard contract that protects migrant domestic workers’ rights in accordance with national provisions in the Employment Act and international labor standards, and in consultation with migrant workers’ groups, sending countries, employment agencies, and the International Labor Organization.
  • Revising the work permit regulations so that domestic workers are no longer forbidden from becoming pregnant and have complete and equal access to health care, including to health information, contraception, and abortion services.
  • Changing work permit regulations to protect migrant domestic workers’ right to marry.

Enforce policies that help prevent abusive practices like forced labor and forced confinement, by:

  • Increasing enforcement of the Employment Agencies Act to ensure compliance with caps on agency fees.
  • Implementing policies so that migrant domestic workers do not spend several months working off their debts with little or no pay, a situation that fosters a range of human rights abuses. The government should look to the Philippines and Hong Kong, who require employers to pay for round-trip airfare and most expenses associated with recruitment and placement, including those now covered by private loans in Singapore. The Singapore government should consider adjusting the monthly levy to offset the cost to employers.
  • Abolishing the S$5,000 [U.S.$2,950] security bond.
  • Investigating cost-effective ways to open bank accounts for migrant domestic workers and for employers to pay wages automatically each month.
  • Revising policies that allow employers to repatriate migrant domestic workers at will and that require a domestic worker to obtain her employer’s permission before transferring to another employer.
  • Changing work permit conditions so that migrant domestic workers have the option of residing in independent living quarters from their employers.

Create and improve mechanisms to prevent, monitor, and respond to abuse of migrant domestic workers, by:

  • Inspecting workplace conditions regularly, for example, through visits and private interviews with migrant domestic workers. They should coordinate with migrant workers’ groups, employment agencies, and the police.
  • Monitoring employment agencies more rigorously. Create a new accreditation body that includes representatives from employment agencies, consumer rights organizations, domestic workers’ rights organizations, the Ministry of Manpower, and sending countries. Revise accreditation criteria to create more detailed and comprehensive standard employment contracts, rules on agency fees, and procedures for resolving and reporting problems.
  • Creating accessible complaint mechanisms for migrant domestic workers who suffer abuse. Examples include hotlines advertised in various media in domestic workers’ native languages, questionnaires on work conditions during periodic medical check-ups, and exit interviews.

Enhance domestic workers’ access to the justice system, by:

  • Creating helpdesks at the airport and main police stations with staff fluent in the primary languages spoken by migrant workers. Implement training programs for police officers and immigration officials to identify and respond to domestic workers’ abuse complaints.  The police should have a protocol for handling cases of abuse including immediate health care and social service referrals.
  • Recruiting more police staff proficient in the predominant languages spoken by migrant workers, including Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Sinhalese, and Tamil.
  • Allowing greater flexibility in the types of work that domestic workers can perform while waiting for the completion of an investigation into a labor complaint or criminal prosecution to provide them alternative employment possibilities.
  • Prosecuting employers and employment agents who violate the rights of domestic workers according to national laws, including for forced confinement. Provide civil remedies, including monetary damages that migrant domestic workers can pursue.
  • Disseminating information on domestic workers’ rights and the obligations of labor agents, employers, and governments through the media, cooperation with faith-based and private migrants’ organizations, and partnerships with sending countries’ governments.

Protect domestic migrant workers’ freedom of movement and association, and provide assistance to organizations aiding migrant workers, by:

  • Cooperating with migrant workers’ organizations, including through establishing regular consultations and by providing funding. These include shelters, skills-training programs, legal aid programs, and migrant worker peer networks.
  • The National Trades Union Congress should create a campaign to organize migrant domestic workers, underscoring the need for them to have days off to do so.

Sign and ratify major international human rights treaties setting forth the rights of migrants.  Comply with treaty-body reporting requirements.

  • Ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (Migrant Workers Convention); the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (United Nations Trafficking Protocol); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

To the Governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Other Labor-Sending Countries

Improve protections for citizens working in Singapore, by:

  • Improving victim services at embassies and diplomatic missions in Singapore. Provide resources including adequate staffing, access to legal aid, health care, trauma counseling, and shelter. 
  • Cooperating with NGOs in home countries and in Singapore to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers, including through establishing regular consultations and by providing funding. 
  • Opening embassies and diplomatic missions on Sunday, the day most migrant workers have off. Support skills training programs, and recreation and cultural centers for domestic workers.
  • Tracking and making publicly available data on the number of migrant workers and cases of abuse.

Regulate and monitor labor recruitment agencies and migrant worker training centers, by:

  • Regulating labor agencies and migrant worker training centers, clearly defining standards for fees, minimum health and safety conditions, and workers’ freedom of movement. Impose substantial penalties on labor agencies and agents who violate these regulations.
  • Establishing mechanisms for regular and independent monitoring of labor agencies, including unannounced inspections.

To Employment Agencies and Accrediting Bodies

  • Report cases of abuse to MOM [Ministry of Manpower], the police, embassies, and accreditation bodies.
  • Implement a standard employment contract that establishes detailed protections on wages, hours of work, days off, salary deductions, rest leave, airfare, and other terms of employment according to national provisions in the Employment Act and international labor standards.
  • Create professional development courses for employment agents.
  • Monitor the wellbeing of the domestic worker through phone calls and spot visits, especially during the first three months of employment.
  • Create recommended pay scales according to work experience and other qualifications, such as education. Abolish discriminatory policies that determine entry-level wages according to nationality rather than work experience, education, or other relevant criteria.
  • Exercise due diligence before placing a replacement domestic worker with an employer accused of abuse.

To International Donors and Organizations

  • Provide resources for support services, including legal aid, health care, shelter, job training, and psychological counseling.
  • Provide resources for strengthening the capacity of research and advocacy organizations working on behalf of migrant workers, especially those focusing on female domestic workers.
  • Raise attention to the abuses faced by migrant domestic workers in bilateral and multilateral meetings with the governments that receive or send migrant workers.  Press for the reforms recommended above.
  • The Global Commission on International Migration should address in detail the situation of migrant domestic workers in its research, consultations, and recommendations.
  • The International Labor Organization should ensure substantial attention to domestic workers when implementing its plan of action on migrant workers adopted in June 2004.  The ILO should also create model bilateral/multilateral labor agreements and model standard contracts for domestic workers to aid governments undertaking reforms.

To the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

  • Create a working group to study regional labor migration and formulate recommendations, including for multilateral agreements on labor standards and protections for migrant domestic workers. 

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>December 2005