You can be sure of one thing about our government, when there is a problem it will take steps to address it. Now they have turned their attention to our domestic foreign workers.
Nine maids have died this year as a result of falling from high-rise buildings. That's 9, I mean N-I-N-E. To me that is an almost unbelievable number, and it is only early September. Let's hope there are no more for this year. Or ever.
Explanations given for this high rate are that most of the domestic foreign workers who end up in Singapore are from rural areas of their home countries and therefore don't have a good feel for working in a high-rise. It might be possible, I suppose, but it does seem pretty unlikely. Just 'cos you are from a farm means you are going to fall out of a high window when you hang out the laundry?
Nah. Not all nine of them.
I'll bet that at least some of them are so distraught by their circumstances of what must seem like an impossible amount of debt they racked up by just coming here, the loneliness of being being virtually locked up in an apartment all day without the chance to socialise with others from their own culture, the gruelling 14 hour workdays, and the sometimes less than humane treatment from their boss families, that jumping seemed easier than coping with their situation.
So thankfully there is now a compulsory course called Settling-In-Programme (SIP) which has replaced the previous entrance test after complaints that it was too hard to for non-English speakers.
The course is compulsory and takes one day to complete. You can see from the newspaper clipping to the left it is not about how to fold the laundry, but about real, serious, important, issues which will affect almost all new maids who come to Singapore to work.
As well as talking about safety in high-rise apartments the lecturers also inform the maids of their rights and what their employers are expected to provide, such as being present in the room and supervising a maid if she has been instructed to clean a window.
Whilst I am not absolutely sure of this, I believe the maids have also been instructed in how to get help if they need it. Occasionally it has been discovered that a maid has been abused, underpaid, underfed, locked up and made to work extraordinary long hours without rest, her passport taken away from her, and with a burdensome debt hanging over her, and she hasn't known how to get help, who to call or what to do.
The raison d'etre for the Find a Nanny web site is as much about preventing the exploitation of young women who are enticed to come here to solve their financial woes, as it is about giving local families a way to find local Singaporean women who want nannying and babysitting jobs.