Transfer Maid and New Maid – Which is Better?

In Singapore, we have transfer maid and new maid. And, I’ve been asked which is better. But first, we have to understand what do transfer maid and new maid mean.

New maids are helpers coming in from overseas to work in Singapore for the first time. After they have arrived here and have worked for a day, a month or 2 years and so on, they are defined as transfer maids when they are seeking to be transferred from their current employer to another employer.

In other words, the new maids are simply new to Singapore, but they can have work experience in their home country. Whereas, transfer maids can have work experience in their home country, and in addition, there is the time period of how long they have been working in Singapore and what is their employment history like.

So, is transfer maid or a new maid better? Let us not pre-judge, but look at several factors.

New maids are simply new to working in Singapore. They may have work experience in their home country and may have undergone training in the training centre. You’ll probably have to interview her over the phone or the webcam and get feedback from her trainer, which could be biased.

Transfer maids are already working in Singapore. You can meet them for an interview in person. In addition, you can request for the Employment History of the transfer maid. In fact, the maid agency has to give it to you as it is a requirement of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

In terms of screening, I would say that transfer maids allow for better screening and matching because you can meet them in person and the employment history will allow you to gauge her work performance better. Any helper with a “job hopping” employment history may not be a good candidate, much like in any other occupation.

With the new regulation on giving weekly rest days to maids, there is also the issue of the girls “mixing” with bad company. New maids probably have no fixed routine on weekends and may start off wondering around. Transfer maids, who have a few years experience, probably have a routine – meeting friends, going to church, going for courses, etc. Employers, however, can choose to compensate the girls instead of giving them days off. This is subject to the girls’ agreement.

Another factor to consider is the maid agency providing the service. In terms of new maids, normally, the employers will only know the name of the agency in Singapore servicing them. However, they probably wouldn’t know who are the overseas suppliers supplying the maids to the local agency. The fact is the overseas suppliers do not just service Singapore and we are probably not their main market because we are small and compared to other countries, we have many rules and regulations to follow. If you were the overseas supplier or the new maid, would you have chosen Singapore as your main market? Moreover, the maid’s salary in Singapore is so much lower than countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Saudi.

If Singapore is not such a great market, then why do they still service this market? Sure, there is business to be done here. However, there are 2 other factors in play. I’ve read this in a Chinese newspaper some years ago. An agency boss was pretty happy about having to replace his maids. Firstly, the same employer will be helping him to bring in a few more new maids into Singapore. In this way, 1 employer has multiplied his sales into 2, 3, 4, and more sales. Don’t forget that the maids are paying the agency as well. Moreover, all the other maids being transferred will be charged a transfer fee. In addition, new employers employing the transfer maids will be paying the agency as well, unless there is a guarantee. You can see how the sales multiply out so many times this way just by giving “free” replacements.

Secondly, Singapore, being a “tougher” place for new maids becomes a training and “stamping” ground. You see, the agency boss also talked about re-exporting the new maids to other countries as “ex-Singapore” girls and sell them at a premium after a few months in Singapore. Have you ever wondered why retention rate is so low then? It didn’t matter to that agency boss – the more replacements there are, the better. It multiplies out his sales and he has more girls to re-export. Business is good for him, but is detrimental to his employers and maids. Now, I’m not saying that all agencies are like that. But, I must say that that agency boss was very candid in his reply and that really opened my eyes to the “secrets” in this industry.

What about transfer maids? Is there a multiplying sales tactics there? I think there is a possibility if an agency choose to do so. I cannot speak for other agencies, but I can speak for my own agency.

Our strategy has never been to multiply sales. Our strategy has always been to properly match the helpers to the employers. That is why we have so many happy testimonials from clients. While we have many expat employers, we are also getting more local employers coming to us for help.

We promote our services based on the strength of our testimonials and through word-of-mouth. The fact is we actually lose money by not properly matching helpers to employers. This is because we have to “re-do” the matching and rearrange interviews for the clients and we do not get paid again by the clients because of our free replacement (depending on package). In addition, we lose goodwill and standing in the industry. Moreover, Singapore is our only market. As such, we never re-export our girls.

Oh yes, another question is that of cost. The agency fee of getting a new maid is around $800 to $1,600 (depending on package and agency). I believe there are some agencies charging $88 or $288. These agencies are basically passing all the costs to the new maids, and that is probably illegal. You see, the MOM has mandated that the maids be charged a maximum of 2 months salary for a 2 years contract. However, these “rogue” agencies will put this as the expenses the maids have to pay the overseas suppliers. So, as the new employer, your total expense will be in the region of $2,800 to $3,600, with a 6-9 months salary deduction on the girl.

In the case of a transfer maid, the agency fee should be in the region of a few hundred dollars. And that’s it! The transfer maid will pay for her own transfer fee. Or, if the employer chooses to help her pay first, there is only a 1 to 2 months salary deduction on the girl.

One important point I have to mention is that the maids of this generation (compared to 10 years ago) are much more demanding. Don’t forget that their home countries have improved economically and there are jobs back home. However, the pay overseas is still better.

Relatively speaking, new maids are probably less demanding than the transfer maids who have been in Singapore for a few years. On the other hand, transfer maids have more to lose if their jobs don’t work out. After all, these transfer helpers are so used to life in Singapore and their families back home are expecting their monthly remittance for household expenses, schooling expenses for the children and so on. For the new maids, working here is a new experience and if it didn’t work out, most of them are quite prepared to go back to their home country, in a worst case scenario. They may come here on a “try it out” mentality.

I know that the above factors may look biased towards transfer maids, but these are the facts that I know. I hope you’ll think about what I’ve written above and think for yourself. Do these factors make sense or am I writing nonsense?

In conclusion, a new maid or a transfer maid may just work out for any employers. We don’t really know, but only on hindsight. Nevertheless, the above are just factors for your consideration and I hope it helps.

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