Sin­ga­pore moms riled by maid rights video


A Sin­ga­porean so­cial me­dia cam­paign to se­cure days off for maids has in­stead ended up ir­ri­tat­ing the moth­ers who em­ploy them. Some find it need­lessly neg­a­tive.

That is be­cause the video, “Mums & Maids,” seems to sig­nal that maids know their em­ploy­ers’ chil­dren bet­ter than the em­ploy­ers them­selves. It then asks if par­ents should be spend­ing more time with their chil­dren and ends by telling them to give their maids a day off.

The video, de­vel­oped by mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions firm Ogilvy & Mather ( O&M) and sup­ported by work­ers’ rights group Tran­sient Work­ers Count Too (TWC2), asks maids and moth­ers a se­ries of ques­tions about the child of the house.

It shows the maid get­ting the cor­rect an­swer about the child, rather than the mother. It adds that 74 per­cent of the maids gave more cor­rect an­swers com­pared to the moth­ers.

O&M did not re­ply when asked if the in­ter­views were staged and how many peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in the in­ter­views.

The YouTube video has been viewed around 89,000 times and some have dis­agreed with its cen­tral idea that giv­ing maids time off work al­lows em­ploy­ers to bond with their chil­dren.

Siti Zubei­dah Kadir, 31, who has a three-year-old daugh­ter, said the video misses the point that maids de­serve time off work like other work­ers.

“In­stead, the video vil­lian­izes moth­ers. We al­ready feel guilty for not be­ing able to spend enough time with our chil­dren and this video makes us feel worse,” said the real es­tate agent.

O&M said that the film is part of a cam­paign to draw at­ten­tion to the fact that many maids in Sin­ga­pore do not have days off.

Since Jan­uary 2013, bosses are re­quired to give maids a weekly day off or pay­ment in lieu.

A Min­istry of Man­power sur­vey of 2,000 maids who had come to Sin­ga­pore to work for the first time in 2013, showed that only 37 per­cent were re­ceiv­ing a weekly day off.

Eu­gene Cheong, chief cre­ative of­fi­cer of O&M Asia-Pa­cific, said the film was “de­lib­er­ately con­fronting.”

“It must ac­tu­ally change be­hav­ior. So we fo­cused on the cre­ative strat­egy of tap­ping into mod­ern par­ents’ fear of miss­ing out.”

Yes­ter­day, TWC2’ s Pres­i­dent Noorashikin Ab­dul Rah­man said her or­ga­ni­za­tion was not in­volved in de­vel­op­ing the video but was ap­proached to sup­port it. How­ever, TWC2 ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers viewed the film about a week ago and told O&M that it might re­ceive some neg­a­tive feed­back.

“TWC2 hopes the film will con­trib­ute to a con­struc­tive re-ex­am­i­na­tion of em­ploy­ers’ re­la­tion­ship with do­mes­tic work­ers,” said Dr. Noorashikin.

But Kate McFar­lane, edi­tor of par­ent­ing web­site Sassy Mama Sin­ga­pore, dis­agreed.

“I don’t see how that neg­a­tiv­ity will en­cour­age some­one to want to give their helper a day off,” said McFar­lane, 33, who has a 10-month-old daugh­ter.

How­ever, other par­ents, such as bank ex­ec­u­tive Tri­cia Lim, said the video sends an im­por­tant mes­sage that par­ents need to take an ac­tive role in rais­ing their chil­dren. “It is true that some par­ents do not spend enough time with their kids. The video is a good re­minder,” said Lim, 29, who has an 11-month-old daugh­ter.

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