The Guardian newspaper carried news of the Singapore government’s decision to make a weekly day off for domestic workers mandatory (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/06/singapore-maids-one-day-off-a-week).

Describing the existing situation, reporter Kate Hodal wrote:

Seven-day weeks and 14-hour days are common, a report last year found, with only 12% of domestic helpers currently getting a day off each week.

Runaways, violence, accidents and suicide are not uncommon, and physical and psychological abuse by Singaporean employers – who rate among the richest in the world – has been well documented.

The report also quoted from TWC2’s media statement.

Human rights groups applauded the reform but said that it should apply to all domestic workers and take effect this year. Dr Noorashikin Abdul Rahman of Singapore-based Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said: “Otherwise, there will be quite a significant population of domestic workers who will have to wait for a considerable amount of time before they have access to this basic labour right.

“It should also be made clear what the penalty would be if employers do not oblige by the new legislation, so that those who are inclined to take this new law lightly will be more aware of the consequences of doing so,” she added.

It further noted Human Rights Watch’s concern about a “significant risk of abuse” that employers may bully their help into forgoing a day off. The widespread negative reaction among Singaporean employers of domestic workers was mentioned as well.