The Straits Times reported that employment agents in Myanmar are encouraging young women to lie about their ages in order to work in Singapore as domestic workers.

Currently, Singapore requires a person to be at least 23 years old for the domestic work sector, and the onus is on employment agents here to ensure this is complied with. The Myanma government also bans its nationals from seeking work abroad in the domestic and entertainment sectors.

However, the lure of money may be too great to resist — Myanmar maids make between $400 and $420 a month in Singapore, several times more than what they earn back home, said the newspaper — so agents within Myanmar are said to be recruiting underaged women. The report said that officials can be bribed to produce passports falsely stating the person’s age.

Four Singapore agents, who declined to be named for fear of being penalised by the MOM, said they had each been recommended a handful of women aged below 20 by their recruitment middlemen in Myanmar this year. They suspected the girls were teenagers based on their photos. And their doubts were confirmed when the recruiters could not produce birth and education certificates.

One agent said he received a young-looking Myanmar maid two weeks ago, who claimed to be 23 but later admitted she was 16. He repatriated her immediately.

 

— Straits Times, 23 July 2012, Myanmar agents send underage maids here, by Amelia Tan

On the other hand, the newspaper wrote, Singapore agents are also desperate to make up the shortfall caused by months of wrangling with Indonesian recruiters over the fees for their maids.

In 2010, fourteen employment agents received warnings for bringing in underage maids. Four were also issued with demerit points.

The Ministry of Manpower’s website states that demerit points have a validity of 12 months. If at any point in time, an employment agent has 12 demerit points outstanding, he will be placed on the surveillance list and have their Work Permit Online and Employment Pass Online accounts suspended. The suspension will only be lifted after three months, or after the agent proves that rectification measures have been put in place to avoid recurrence of the latest breach, whichever is later. Agents who commit any infringement during the surveillance period may have their licences revoked or barred from licence renewal.