MOHAMMAD ALSABAH WRITES — The recent “maids for sale” ad posted on Carousell, an international online platform used to buy and sell goods, sparked controversy in Singapore through its irresponsible marketing: posting maids “for sale” ads. According to DW magazine, such online ads in Singapore backfired. Most of these women being ‘sold’ come from parts of Indonesia, Philippines, and Myanmar, and it seems as if the domestic worker industry there needs regulation. Coconuts.co stated that the controversy was due to the use of the word “sold,” implying that these women were objects in a trade.
There was outrage from local NGOs internationally, including Migrant Care in Jakarta. The recruitment agency SRC Recruitment LLP, whose license has been suspended by Singapore’s ministry of labor, now faces a total of 243 charges, including 49 for “insensitive marketing.” This was not only punishment for the firm responsible, but also a warning for other companies to reconsider their marketing strategies.
Kevin Teoh, commissioner for employment agencies at Singapore’s labor ministry, reiterated that it is unlawful to advertise foreign domestic workers in such an undignified manner. According to the Straits Times, Carousell and other advertisers were ordered to remove their ads immediately. If these companies are found guilty, they could be fined up to $80,000 and jailed up to two years. Employment agencies, on the other hand, can incur fines of up to $5,000.
These ads are extremely depressing given the history of racism in Singapore. According to the Business Times, domestic helpers are very low paid, and several employment agencies allegedly use physical and mental abuse against the migrant population as a kind of extortion and control.
Given the city reliance on maid services, and lack of continuing momentum to support migrant worker rights, it doesn’t seem like this discrimination in Singapore is going to change anytime soon. But, the government is establishing controller policies regarding how foreigners are treated. While the government recognizes the need for maid services, it will not tolerate undignified industry practices.