Can You Afford To Hire A Full-Time Domestic Helper In Singapore?

Can You Afford To Hire A Full-Time Domestic Helper In Singapore?

It is fairly common to hire domestic help in Singapore. In many dual-income families where both parents work long hours, domestic help is often employed to cope with household chores and with taking care of the kids and old folks.

If your life circumstances have changed and you’re considering hiring a domestic helper for your home, one of the first concerns you may have is the financial cost. But did you know the helper’s salary is only one aspect of it? So, read on to find out how much it really costs to hire a live-in domestic helper.

What’s the process of hiring a domestic worker?

  1. You can engage with an employment agency (EA). It’s not compulsory to do so, but an agency can help you settle the paperwork and ease the application process.
  2. Find and select a suitable domestic worker based on biodata and employment history provided by your agency.
  3. Interview the domestic worker (face-to-face, video call or overseas phone call).
  4. If you’re a first-time employer, you’ll have to complete the Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP).
  5. Apply for a work permit from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
  6. Place a security bond with the MOM and buy medical and personal accident insurance for your domestic helper.
  7. Set up a general interbank recurring order (GIRO) account for monthly levy deductions by the (MOM).
  8. Upon arrival of your domestic worker, send her to the Settling-In Programme (SIP) if this is her first time working here.
  9. Send your domestic worker to the MOM Services Centre and register her for fingerprinting and photo taking.
  10. Send your domestic worker for a pre-employment medical check-up.

Check with your agency, as they may assist you with some of these steps. For more information, visit MOM’s checklist for hiring a domestic worker.

Here’s a summary of the upfront costs you may incur when hiring a domestic helper:

Upfront costs
Employers' Orientation ProgrammeS$34.50
Security bondS$5,000
Performance bondS$70
Agency feeS$1,000
Settling-In Programme (if FDW is working here for the first time)S$75
Work permit applicationS$30
Work permit issuanceS$30
Medical examinationS$80

Here are some of the recurring costs you may incur:

Recurring costs
Helper’s salary> S$550 a month
InsuranceS$250 (for 26 months)
FDW levyS$720 a year (concessionary rate)
Six-monthly medical examinationVaries

The recurring costs above have not taken into account the food, lodging and transportation expenses you’ll incur when you employ a live-in domestic helper.

Read on for more details about the costs listed above:

1. Helper’s salary

A domestic helper’s salary is based on a few factors, including nationality. The minimum salary for Indonesian domestic helpers is S$550, while domestic helpers from the Philippines have a minimum salary of S$570.

However, be prepared to offer a higher salary – employment agency Anisya found that most (35%) of the employer ads on their site offered salaries of S$750 or higher. A domestic helper’s salary will also generally increase according to number of years of experience.

On top of that, you will be responsible for meals, lodging, as well as medical and travel expenses.

2. Employer’s Orientation Programme (EOP)

The EOP is a 3-hour programme that will help you understand your role and responsibilities as an employer. You can take the programme in the classroom (S$30 to S$34.50) or online (S$46).

3. Security bond

A security bond is required if you’re employing a non-Malaysian domestic worker. It is a binding pledge to pay the government (up to S$5,000) if you break any laws governing the employment of a helper.

You will be discharged from the security bond liability when you meet these requirements:

  • You have cancelled your helper’s Work Permit
  • Your helper has returned home
  • You did not breach any conditions of the security bond

4. Performance bond

If you’re employing an Indonesian maid, hiring or renewing a contract will set you back a further S$70. This fee covers a performance bond of S$6,000, the full figure of which you’ll only need to pay if you breach the terms of employment.

The bond exists to protect Indonesian migrant workers by ensuring employers abide by the terms of employment contracts.

Similarly, if you’re employing a maid from the Philippines, you’ll need to pay about S$40 for a S$2,000 bond.

5. Agency fee

Agency fees can vary greatly, depending on the services that are included in the fee.  Agencies don’t typically publish their fees but you can expect to pay around S$1000.

Be sure to enquire when you encounter very low maid agency fees to avoid any unethical operators.

6. Settling-In Programme

You will have to send your domestic helper to a Settling-In Programme (S$75) upon arrival, which will cover topics like employment conditions, safety and relationship and stress management.

7. Work permit application and issuance

The work permit application costs S$30 and you pay another S$30 when it’s successfully issued. This is renewable and is valid for up to two years.

8. Medical and Personal accident insurance

As the employer, you are responsible for buying insurance for your domestic helper.  The minimum coverage is as follows:

Medical insurance: S$15,000
Personal accident insurance: S$60,000

Most insurance companies offer an insurance policy that covers both aspects with premium from around S$250 for 26 months.

9. FDW levy

The foreign domestic worker levy is paid directly to the government. The normal monthly rate is S$265 and the concessionary rate is S$60.

You qualify for the concessionary rate if you have young child or grandchild, and aged person, or a person with disability living at the same registered address with you.

Check if you meet the following conditions:
  • You or your spouse has a child or grandchild who is a Singaporean citizen below the age of 16 years old who is living at the same address.
  • You or your spouse is a Singaporean citizen aged 65 years or above, or you live with a parent or grandparent of that age in the same address.
  • You or a family member has a disability.

10. Medical examinations and regular check-ups

The initial medical examination required to apply for a work permit costs about S$80.

Subsequently, domestic helpers are required to go for a medical check-up every six months for the following tests:

Tests forFrequency
PregnancyEvery 6 months
SyphilisEvery 6 months
HIVEvery 2 years
TuberculosisOnce, upon 2 years of stay in Singapore
Source: MOM

The costs of these check-ups will vary according to the medical clinic you patronise.

11. Travel expenses

 You’re also responsible for the airfare of your domestic helper when she returns home. Get a credit card that gives you travel benefit and rewards to save you a couple of dollars on airfare.

Beyond the financial costs

All in all, it’s easy to see that hiring a full-time domestic helper who lives in the family is a very significant financial investment. Even if you’re willing to overlook the one-off costs like the agency fee, the monthly outlay alone will cost over S$600.

In addition, a live-in domestic helper is having another member in the household, which means managing another relationship. Communication breakdowns and cultural misunderstandings can be quite stressful for both sides, especially in the beginning.

This article was originally published on April 26, 2017.
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