Mark of A Civilized Country and Society


It is really disappointing that there has to be an ongoing discussion whether the domestic helpers should have a day off on weekends. What is even more disappointing is to read some of the letters printed in the Straits TImes.  I am reproducing one of them here:

This is from June 23rd:

Jun 23, 2011

More days off may not be in maids’ interest

I REFER to the proposal by Madam Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, to make it mandatory to give maids a day off every week (‘Consider law to give maids a day off every week: Halimah’; Monday).

As much as employers like myself will like to give our maids a day off per week, we are concerned that it may actually not be in their interest. With four days off a month, they will incur more expenses. Many maids who have a day off a week end up not only sending less money home, and having little or no savings, but also incur debts by borrowing from other maids to cover expenses.

They may also become resentful that their pay is not able to pay for their entertainment on these days off.

Some maids may also work illegally on their days off. This puts them at risk of abuse from those who employ them illegally and also put their legal employers at risk with the law.

Sng Choon Kwee

The author is self-serving and down right obnoxious in the concern of “incurring more costs”, :”work illegally on their days off” , “resentful” etc.

Domestic helpers have a job to do and when it is done, they are entitled to off hours, and off days.  Just like anyone else. These individuals are not slaves to anyone. They are doing a job and are gainfully employed with hopes and dreams of improving their families that they are separated from in the hope that the the next generation has better opportunities.

For us to even entertain a discussion on whether domestic helpers should be given a day or two off shows that there are members and segments of this society that determines a persons privileges based on the job being done. How disgusting can that be?

Yes, my family has a domestic helper. My wife and I agreed that she should have at least one day off a week. If she takes the day off, great; if she doesn’t that fine as well. She should be able to decide. I think it is only fair. As much as I get paid time off, domestic helpers should also have that.

It is unfortunate to have to reach a point at which we have to enact legislation to enforce this. Granting a day off should be natural and would be mark of a civilised country and society.