The first batch of Indonesian maids to work in Singapore under new rules set by the Indonesian government should arrive next month.
This puts to rest fears that the supply tap could be turned off because of reluctance by Indonesian middlemen to recruit maids.
Some had stopped recruiting maids in protest against new rules implemented on May 1, while others had been unsure of how the changes would affect demand from employers here.
K. Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore), said about 3,000 Indonesian maids come here for work each month and is confident the same number will arrive by the end of next month. Her checks with a handful of Indonesian training centers show that at least 500 maids have been recruited for the Singapore market and are undergoing training.
She said the maids are likely to arrive at the end of next month as the new rules decree that first-time maids have to complete 40 days of training before leaving the country. Maid agents in Singapore also confirmed that recruitment of Indonesian maids has picked up in recent weeks.
The Straits Times reported last month that rule changes implemented by the Indonesian government on May 1 could make hiring an Indonesian maid costlier, but less risky overall.
Under the new rules, employers no longer need to make a hefty upfront payment of about S$3,000 (US$2,351) in placement fees, which is recovered by deducting it gradually from the Indonesian maid's salary in the first year of her contract.
Instead, these fees, which pay for costs like training, will be financed by bank loans given to the maids back home.
But the one-time agency fee of S$400 to S$600, which covers the cost of advice given to employers, will go up, with agencies estimating it to be from S$1,200 to S$1,600.
The hike is linked to a lowering of the placement fee to about S$1,600 for maids with no experience, and about S$800 for those with experience.
In response, some Indonesian recruiters threatened to stop sourcing for maids.
Placement fees include commissions earned by agencies and recruitment middlemen. The new system strips out these fees and allows agencies to charge them to employers instead. Also, only recruiters authorized by the Indonesian government will be allowed to source for maids, at a fixed fee.
But it seems that some recruiters have backed down after the Indonesian government made it clear that it would go ahead with the rule changes.
However, some agents said recruitment is still lower than before and disagreed with Jayaprema that the numbers will go back to normal by next month.
Indra, who owns Javamaids, said: “I think it will take until the end of the year for the market to settle down. Right now, there are still many Indonesian middlemen who are demanding that we give them under-the-table money for the maids.”
Nation Employment managing director Gary Chin said: “My recruitment agents normally can recruit 500 or 600 a month but so far, they have recruited only about 30. I'm hoping that recruitment can speed up soon.”
Three maid agencies – Best Home Employment, JPB Maid Specialist and Javamaids – had earlier said they are teaming up to secure partnerships with Indonesian recruiters and will share any excess maids with other agencies.
They said they have not recruited enough maids for themselves yet but are ready to pass on extra maids in the next few months.
In the meantime, maid agents said they are supplying employers with Indonesian maids recruited under the old system. But they said they will run out of these maids by the end of the month.
Some agents added they will try to step up sourcing of maids from other countries. But they doubt this can cover any shortfall of Indonesian maids who make up half the 206,000 maids here.