SINGAPORE: The Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS) has made an appeal to lower the minimum age requirement and to scrap the educational requirement for maids.
It believes these changes are needed to boost the supply of maids in Singapore.
The government estimated that households' demand for domestic helpers would increase by 100,000 maids by 2030, bringing the total to 300,000.
In response, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) informed the association that it will look into its appeal.
In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, MOM says its "policies, including those pertaining to foreign domestic workers, are periodically reviewed to ensure they remain relevant amidst changing landscapes."
Foreign maids who want to work in Singapore must be at least 23 years old, a requirement set by MOM in 2005.
It was raised from the earlier 18 years, as the authorities felt older maids are more mature and responsible.
Maids also need to have at least eight years of education.
AEAS says a maid's education should be left to the employer's specification.
In addition, many of these maids are unable to provide educational certificates and sometimes they resort to forging certificates so they can work in Singapore.
AEAS says lowering the minimum age requirement will allow Singapore to tap on a bigger pool of workers.
Its president K Jayaprema said: "Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Middle East...what they require is 18 or 21 years of age.
"So we are losing good candidates, potentially good candidates...
"Most of them who are going to come out to work as domestic workers would like to leave at the age of 18 or 19, because they are not married yet."
AEAS also notes that many of these women would be married by the age of 23.
Thus, this would present another set of problems when young mothers leave behind their young children and husband. These women would be more susceptible to emotional distress.
In addition, AEAS argues that work permit holders in other industries like construction and marine do not have such a minimum age requirement.
Migrant worker groups believe that at 21, a woman would be mature enough to go to another country as a domestic worker.
In addition, by lowering the age requirement, these women will have less reason to lie about their age.
Bridget Tan, president of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), said: "There are many who're coming in as teenagers but their passports are arranged so that it appears they are 23. And this becomes a big issue...and they dare not report that they have been brought in at much younger (age) because they are afraid of getting into trouble with MOM or the immigration for agreeing with the agent to have their passport forged."
However, some employers like Carol Oii still prefer a maid who is older. She said: "I think 23 years old is good, not younger than 23, because I don't think they are mature(d) enough..."
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