The Straits Times reported that mobile phones are gradually causing disagreements between domestic helpers and employers in Singapore.
Maid agents reported that 20% of the complaints they receive about maids stem from phone usage, double the number over the past two years. Shirley Ng said that in their employment agency, those are usually seven out of ten maids. Therefore, some owners will ask for maids who do not want mobile phones.
Many employers claim their maids spend too much time on their phones organizing their social lives instead of doing their jobs.
Ng also said some employers are concerned that their maids might end up stealing to fund their phone usage.
The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics polled 670 maids in Singapore, in which they discovered that 70% of them experienced communication restrictions. More than 100 maids said they had their phones taken away.
Madam Sim C.K. said the phone is a distraction, and only allows her maid to use it only after 8p.m. She shared that there was a time her mother almost slipped and fell in the toilet while her maid was using her phone.
Agents said some maids have one phone to surrender to employers, and another to use in secret.
Girlie Gulay, a domestic worker from the Philippines, said she has no choice but to hide her mobile phone to keep in touch with her husband, sick mother, and three children.
Agents urged their employers to set up ground rules early, even letting the maids use their phones earlier in the evening.
Another employment agency started giving free prepaid SIM cards to the helpers after an increasing number of employers complained that their maids racked up the bills on their home phones of up to SGD 1,000 or PhP 33,130.
Not every employer disapproves about phone usage. Yang M.S. likes to communicate with her maid whenever she needs to have errands done.
An advocacy group says denying a maid a phone is another way of isolating her. It’s important to allow maids their mobile phones because of the live-in nature of their work.