The Cost of Care
Employment agents, domestic workers, and Singapore's migration industry
The boutique agency
“The fees that we earn is not a one-time service, but a service that lasts throughout the two years of each contract. The story takes two years to end. There may not be anything within these two years, but there might also be many problems.”
The Ethical Agency
“Yet we have seen agents who charge employers $1 agency fee… if the employer pays zero agency fee, how does the agency survive? The costs that are supposed to be borne by the employer are actually passed on to the helper through a manipulation of the ‘maid loan’.”
The cultural broker
“She had some problems. She wasn’t feeling good. The work was so tiring, the employer always angry. So I gave her some counselling. The maid is Indonesian, but I understood what she was feeling and saying, because I was born in Indonesia.”
The Big Boy
“Whether or not employers and agents can adapt fast enough to source country requirements is the key to our sustainability. Employers must change their mindsets. They cannot think that, ‘oh, a poor woman from a Third World country must definitely come to me [for work].’"
"We engage in ethical recruiting not just because we are nice people, but because it gives us a real competitive advantage. The fact that the candidates don’t have to pay to get the job is one of the things that helps us to attract the right calibre of candidates to Singapore."
More about our project
We're a team at the Asia Research Institute who have been studying Singapore's migration industry for domestic workers since March 2015. Here's where we share our research publications and media articles about our work.