A few weeks ago, HOME: Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics shared the experience of a domestic worker who was only given left overs for her meals. The post went on to say that MOM’s guidelines to employers on food cannot be enforced because they are not enshrined in law and the majority of them end up losing their jobs and are sent home. “Factually” came up with this flimsy response, which clearly does not present the full picture:
1) The article says that most of them resigned before filing complaints; therefore it is not accurate to say that filing a complaint will make them lose their jobs. But it fails to mention that the majority of workers who left their employers would like to switch to another one and filing a complaint at MOM will not guarantee that, even if the complaint is legitimate. Most are repatriated.
2) The article goes on to mention that lack of food is because the FDW does not like what is provided or is not used to it. But this is not always true. The amounts that a typical middle class family with a sedentary lifestyle eats are insufficient for a domestic worker who performs physically demanding chores. Even if it was a matter of adjusting to a new food culture, it is still an inadequacy problem. In Singapore, we take food multi-culturalism for granted and assume it is the norm. Not everyone has the social or cultural capital to switch among different types of food typical of a “cosmopolitan” lifestyle.
3) It also tells workers to “voice concerns early” and resolve conflicts “amicably”. This is a typical but dishonest assertion. How can workers voice concerns early when they run the risk of losing their jobs, or are afraid of making their employers or agents angry? What enforcement authorities often fail to consider is the power imbalance that exists in this relationship and that any kind of settlement often stems from employers and agents wielding more influence and power.
4) MOM’s recommended guidelines to employers of workers are as follows:
Breakfast: 4 slices of bread with spread.
Lunch: 1 bowl of rice + three-quarter cup of cooked vegetables + palm-sized amount of meat (fish/poultry/beef/lamb) + fruit
Dinner: 1 bowl of rice + three-quarter cup of cooked vegetables + palm-sized amount of meat (fish/poultry/beef/lamb) + fruit
There are many who eat less than this. For some the prescribed guideline may not be enough. The factually article does not address this fundamental problem: how are such guidelines enforceable in a meaningful, clear and consistent way, which the law is unable to tackle except in the most serious of cases?
Factually is the government’s spin doctor, created to counter ‘falsehoods’ on the Internet. But it’s obviously not beyond being partial with the truth itself.