A moratorium has been declared on sending Filipina domestic helpers to Singapore starting 2 September 2013. This news was carried by Channel NewsAsia (CNA) and the Straits Times (23 July 2013).

CNA said 150 maid agencies in the Philippines, members of a trade association, want employers in Singapore to bear more of the cost of employing domestic workers, and that together, they account for 70 – 80 percent of such Filipino workers here. The news channel said that currently placement fees average US$1,500, or S$1,900, equivalent to about four months’ salary.

Speaking in Manila, Lucy Sermonia, president of the Association of Licensed Recruitment Agencies to Singapore, says:  “Most of them still collect four to six months’ placement fee or salary deduction from each domestic helper.   This has been prohibited under Philippine law since 2007. Last year we went to Singapore on a goodwill mission to talk to Singapore placement agencies. 50% agreed but there are still some that are not compliant and that’s what we want to influence with this moratorium.”

John Gee, immediate past president of TWC2, comments: “I think that one factor in this is that workers who return to the Philippines can sue agencies that place them in employment in conditions that are inferior to the standards they are meant to have: I’m not sure whether this means the actual standards promised, or the standards stipulated by [Filipino law]. There have been successful law suits that have forced agencies to make big payouts, so they now have a strong incentive not to collude with overseas agencies in cheating workers of promised salaries or days off.”

Last year, the Philippines deployed over 14,000 domestic workers to Singapore, reported CNA. There are said to be over 70,000 Filipina maids currently in Singapore out of a total of around 209,000.

The Straits Times’ story appears to play down the significance of this move. Reporting that an (unnamed) association is “temporarily barring” its members from sending workers to Singapore, it quoted K Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) as saying that the move would only have “limited impact” because

the Philippine association has control over only its member agencies. “There are non-members which will still continue to deploy maids here.”

The newspaper also quoted Labour Attache Vincent Cabe from the Philippines embassy here saying that the embassy is not involved in the ban.