The following article has been submitted by Magdalene Saw, 31, Customer Relations Officer
Ahead of Labour Day, Transient Workers Count 2 (TWC2) has released a controversial video slamming mothers for sub-contracting motherly duties to their maids. The video touched a raw nerve and public reactions lashed out at TWC2 for putting unnecessary guilt to mothers.
“It is not as if we do not want to look after our own children ourselves. But it is out of necessity that we have to go out to work. Tell me which mother doesn’t want to stay home and dedicate themselves to their children?” said Mrs. Lee, a 31 year old single mother.
“I’m not sure if these people have families. Do they even know the demands of family life between mother, father and child?” said Regina Khoo.
However, the TWC2 video was never meant to attack mothers. The message constructed at the end of the clip meant to persuade employers to give their maids at least one day off a week.
Jolovan Wham of another migrant worker organisation HOME (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics) criticised the TWC2 effort in a Facebook post.
In the post he quoted “As much as the video promotes a laudable message, it was doing so at the expense of working mothers who face tremendous stress juggling work and child minding at the same time. Working mums are always under pressure: not only are they expected to be career women and do their part to support their families financially, they are also expected to be nurturing, sacrificial and devoted to their children.”
(Jolovan, M. Ravi and Vincent Wijeysingha)
His organisation, HOME had announced yesterday (28th April, Straits Times) that domestic workers should be protected by minimum wage legislation, and their working hours to be regulated by the government. They had asked for overtime pay, maternity leave, annual leave, sick leave and other statutory benefits in the Employment Act extended to the domestic workers.
“We believe that a minimum wage should be set and apply across the board, irrespective of the nationality of the worker. It has been argued that Singapore does not have a minimum wage for other categories of employee, and so it should not adopt one for domestic workers. We consider that the salary paid to most domestic workers is so low – far less than that paid to almost any other category of worker – that making an exception to existing practice is well justified.”
The Progressive Wage Model stipulates that the base wage for cleaners is at $1000 – does that mean that we’re going to pay $1000 for our domestic help too?
It is all very noble. However, I need to question Mr. Wham if he understands the situation in Singapore. To achieve the dreams of our families, to pursue good homes and education for our children, many parents are compelled to supplement their expenses with dual income. Some out of necessity even. With mother and father out to work (and these days, even grandparents too)… guess who’s looking after the children?
That’s right – nobody.
And what about the elderly and very ill? Has Mr. Wham seen the price of eldercare recently? It costs no less than $2k per month and even if you can afford it, you may not be able to get a place in nursing homes.
It is precisely because of high manpower costs that is driving up the affordability of care in Singapore.
I won’t disagree to paying all employees well and according them full benefits. But before we suggest policies that are so aspirational, I suggest that we take a look at how to fix the problems relating to the costs of living first. Government subsidies may not be a solution as that would simply mean higher taxes, but that is another discussion altogether.
I normally don’t write letters such as this – but I realised that if these activists manage to persuade the Government to implement their dreams, and if their dreams mean that I am then unable to afford to look after my daughter and my father…then I have to say something.
(Jolavan Wham of HOME, Shelly Thio of TWC2 and other political activists)