Friday, 21 January 2011

Flying High

Spider womanImage by Sherwin Huang via FlickrBeing a maid in Singapore is clearly a 'dying art'. On Thursday yet another maid fell to her death while attempting to clean windows from a great height.

Standing on flimsy stools and leaning out to clean the glass is simply not a good idea and during our four years in Singapore it was not an uncommon occurence for such accidents to happen.

Short of employing maids with wings, there is not much that can be done about this practice unless highrise residents are prepared to accept that 'dust happens'.

The exterior of our condo windows were never sparkling clean as tropical rains and nearby road dust ensured that visibility was less than pristine.

Last October another maid fell to her death.  This took place in Commonwealth Avenue where we used to live.

The Manpower Ministry attempts to improve safety awareness but accidents related to maids cleaning windows, hanging laundry or watering plants continues.

Maid In Singapore: The Serious, Quirky and Sometimes Absurd Life of a Domestic WorkerMoM adopts a carrot and stick approach; they offer safety courses but are also prepared to take court action against employers who failed to provide safe working environments.

Penalties include a fine of $5,000, jail for up to six months and being banned from hiring domestic servants.

Such accidents aren't confined to Singapore.  Saudi Arabia has a poorer record in this regard and some of the circumstances are far more suspicious. e.g. "fell from a two-story building while trying to run away from her sponsor".

Maids are a fact of life in Singapore and many modern Singaporean families would find it difficult to operate without them.

Incidents of maid abuse do happen but they are fortunately rare. I observed in our own condo that some employers made their maids very much part of the family while others adopted a far more rigorous form of servitude.

We did not employ a maid during our time in Singapore although many PR's and Expats did and still do.
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