In the backdrop of the two recent cases of elderly women murder by their young domestic helpers, respectively from Myanmar and Indonesia, it is high time we think and talk about the relationship issue between our maids and their employers.
Award-winning film – initially not supported by state funds although requested – Ilo Ilo, gave us an emotional take on the selfless and diligent work done domestic helpers taking care of our families, especially when the able-bodied adults in the household have to take care of their busy schedules of work.
But what with leaving our maids – who come from predominantly non-Chinese-speaking places – to tend to our predominantly dialect-speaking grandparents? When English – the language that is a requirement by the relevant authorities on maids – cannot be used effectively as a medium of communication, at least not in the beginning, and is not a convenient language to learn?
Should our agencies teach them basic dialect of the household they are going to work in, or should the young adults in the household themselves be enthusiastic enough in teaching them basic languages for communication?
Firstly, on the maids’ side: Do our maids have sufficient cultural qualities to work in the Singaporean household?
And on our side: Is it the culture of ‘slavery’, ie. the mentality of ‘making full use of labour’ and hence ‘working the maid out’, the underlying cause for the ill-treatment of maids that we see in the news form time to time, on the one hand, and the general inadequacy in our helpers’ emotional well-being during their time in Singapore, on the other?
Whatever is the reason, it is time to find out.
TODAY news, Mar 20, 2014