Singapore downplays report on Filipino ‘budget’ maids

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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The Philippines, however, suspends the accreditation of one of the two Singaporean companies allegedly offering Filipino maids like 'commodities'

'LIKE COMMODITIES.' In Singapore, a number of agencies offer maids at discounted rates, according to an Al Jazeera report. Screen grab from

MANILA, Philippines – Singapore downplayed a report that two Singaporean agencies offered Filipino maids at “discounted” rates, like commodities, as the Philippines suspended the accreditation of one of these companies.

In a statement Wednesday evening, July 3, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it visited the agencies that supposedly displayed “budget” maids, called foreign domestic workers (FDWs), in two Singaporean shopping centers.

The MOM, however, said it “did not find any inappropriate ‘displays of FDWs’” during its inspection.

Singapore issued this statement after Al Jazeera, an international news agency, reported that maids “are put on display and made available for ‘purchase’ in central shopping malls” in Singapore.

Recruiters offer these maids by using stereotypes that describe Filipinos as “smarter” compared to “less smart” Indonesians and “compliant” Burmese, the Al Jazeera report said.

Watch this report below.


‘Not unreasonable’

Reacting to this report, Singapore offered other examples to downplay the claim on “budget” maids.

The MOM, for one, also pointed out that The Straits Times quoted Philippine Labor Attaché to Singapore Vincent Cabe as saying that for him, the Al Jazeera article “doesn’t seem to have basis.”

Cabe said while he “saw some FDWs sitting on one side of the room at some agencies, waiting to be interviewed by clients…it seems a bit exaggerated to say that there is anything wrong with that,’” according to The Straits Times as quoted by the ministry.

The MOM also deflected criticisms against having FDWs demonstrate “household or caregiving chores within the premises” of their employment agencies (EAs).

DEGRADING TREATMENT? Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay says he is 'deeply concerned' after Al Jazeera reports on 'discount maids.' Screen grab from

“EAs have training facilities in the same premises as their front offices; it is not unreasonable for FDWs to be performing such chores at the EA’s premises. The same story also suggested that some FDWs were not treated well while in their EAs’ care,” the MOM said.

“MOM’s rules are clear that EAs have to ensure the well-being of FDWs in their care,” the ministry said,” it added.

The ministry explained: “MOM proactively audits Singapore EAs and those found to have acted in a manner detrimental to the interest of the FDWs will be dealt with in accordance with the Employment Agencies Act. EAs are also informed, at the point of license approval and during audits, that they are not allowed to restrict the FDWs’ movements or make them remain outside the EA’s premises against their will.”

Suspended accreditation

The Philippines, in any case, vowed to investigate the claims about “budget” maids.

In a statement Wednesday, July 2, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Singapore “has suspended its accreditation of Homekeeper Agency, one of two agencies alleged to be involved in the practice.”

Baldoz said the other company, Budget Maid Agency, as well as others allegedly involved in the practice, “had been referred” to Singapore’s MOM. This is because Budget Maid Agency, among others, is not accredited by POLO-Singapore.

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, for his part, said that if the Al Jazeera report is true, “then the domestic workers are being subjected to an indignity that should not be allowed and is, in fact, a violation of an international convention protecting the rights of migrant workers.”

Article 10 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families states, “No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email