15 Dec 2011, 2.30PM
The entry test for Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) came under public scrutiny in June this year, after the suicide of a young Indonesian who had travelled to Singapore to seek employment as a maid, but failed the test. While contributors acknowledged that the test had initially been introduced in response to feedback from Singaporeans that foreigners working here should have basic proficiency in English, many felt that it was time to review the need for it as well as its effectiveness.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) hence embarked on an extensive consultation exercise with various stakeholders. And the results were conclusive - it found overwhelming support to remove the entry test and replace it with a Settling-in- programme (SIP), to help first-time FDWs adjust to living and working in Singapore.
Here, we bring you MOM’s press release on the public consultation on the matter as well as the announcement on the SIP:
Mandatory Settling-In Programme to Replace English Entry Test
4 December 2011
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will introduce a mandatory Settling-In Programme (SIP), in place of the current English entry test, to help first-time foreign domestic workers (FDWs) better cope with living and working in Singapore. To be introduced by mid 2012, the SIP programme will subsume the current half-day Safety Awareness Course (SAC) and include new components such as adapting to living and working in Singapore, as well as conditions of employment and responsibilities of the FDW. The SIP will be conducted in English or the FDWs’ native language to maximise understanding and retention.
MOM will appoint Accredited Training Providers to run the SIP. Currently, MOM is in the process of refining the programme content and duration to ensure maximum benefit for all, and to keep the cost manageable for employers. More details will be made available in due course.
For employers and employment agencies (EAs) who still prefer FDWs to undergo a language assessment, the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) [AEA(S)] will provide clients of EAs accredited by them with other avenues, such as a written test in English or other languages where scores could be provided to employers; or opportunities to interview the FDW in person/by phone/by video-conference.
MOM will be retaining the other entry requirements introduced in 2005 (please refer to Annex A for background information) – including educational qualifications and the requirement for first-time FDWs to be aged 23 years or above. This is to ensure that FDWs who come to work in Singapore are more mature and better able to cope with working and living in a foreign, urban environment.
Additional Measures to Improve the Functioning of the FDW Market
MOM will increase the transparency of information on FDWs and employers to facilitate better matches. MOM has been working with AEA(S) and CaseTrust to introduce a standard bio-data template for all employment agencies to use. This will help ensure that prospective employers are properly informed of key information like the FDW’s employment history, skills set and how the information in the bio-data had been verified.
AEA(S) is also working with MOM to develop a voluntary trustmark scheme to differentiate better EAs in the market and promote best practices in the industry.
MOM’s extensive stakeholder consultations were key to policy change
Commenting on the changes to the entry requirements, Mr Phua Boon Leng (潘文龙), MOM’s Director of Well-Being, Foreign Manpower Management Division (人力部外劳管理署(福利监察)处长), said, “Through our extensive consultation process with stakeholders on FDW issues, we found overwhelming support to remove the entry test and replace it with the SIP, to better serve the objective of helping first-time FDWs adjust to living and working in Singapore. The SIP will better orientate first-time FDWs by equipping them with basic knowledge about living and working in Singapore and include modules on how to manage stress and adapt to working in a foreign, urban environment. These will help FDWs adapt to working in local households and foster better working relationships with their employers. MOM will continue to engage and consult stakeholders on FDW policies, as part of our aim to ensure our policies remain relevant.”
Click here to see Annex A