SINGAPORE: Competition among employment agencies of foreign domestic workers is becoming more intense at Katong Shopping Centre.
Some are charging agency fees as low as S$1, leading to concerns of hidden costs and the welfare of the maids.
There are about 50 maid employment agencies at Katong Shopping Centre.
Competition is tough, and price has been the key in luring customers.
Agency fees, or administrative charges can vary from about S$200, to as low as S$1.
Jack Chong, manager of employment agency Maids Specialist, said: “There’s no hidden cost, no hidden cost. Like what the sign says, it’s net (price), it’s S$1.
“We are actually doing more on volume. We earn less but we move the maids faster, so the volume is higher. So, we are actually giving the customers better choices.”
The agency has been promoting the package for Myanmar maids for about a month.
In the interest of transparency, various costs are itemised, and the agency said response from customers is good.
However, the price war at the shopping centre has drawn some concerns.
Seah Seng Choon, president of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Skills Training (FAST), said: “I’m very concerned that this is happening at that particular area. It is cut-throat competition, and you can see that the agencies are putting up very low agency fees.
“Employment agencies are businesses; they have to recover their costs somewhere. So, by lowering the agency fee to ridiculous levels, they will have to recover the costs elsewhere.
“So, it may not be transparent in their disclosure of prices, and therefore employers of maids may be misled to think that fees have actually gone down.”
There are also concerns on the welfare and well-being of the foreign domestic workers.
When employment agencies try to cut corners — like having very low agency fees — it is possible they may be skimping on the cost that they need to pay for the upkeep of the foreign domestic workers while they are with the agencies.
Seah said: “They have to provide decent meals, they have to provide proper accommodation and all the other living amenities, (but) all these may be cut, because of all these activities that are going on, and therefore the interest of the domestic workers may be compromised as a result.”
Seah, who is also the executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), urged employers to compare the costs from several agencies before making a decision, to ensure they are not being overcharged.
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