The women behind the glass windows fold and unfold sheets and duvet covers. Clad in light blue polo shirts and red aprons, they make up a double bed and iron clothes for no one in particular. One uniformed woman stands by the entrance, changing a diaper on a baby doll. A sign above her head reads “UNITED CHANNEL” in bold blue letters. A yellow banner beside her boasts, “We specialise in Myanmar maids! … CUSTOMISED TRAINING.”
Singapore is by far Southeast Asia’s richest metropolis. Modern, stable, and with a strong currency, the city state is an attractive destination for migrant workers from neighboring countries. Foreign domestic workers (FDWs)—often referred to here as “maids”—are the silent backbone behind many striving Singaporean and expat families, cleaning, cooking, and looking after children. Some are trained to care for people with disabilities or the elderly.
With salaries as low as S$400 (US$296) a month, live-in FDWs are far cheaper than childcare centers, homes for the aged, or even part-time cleaners. With over 218,3000 FDWs working in households across the island, they have become a crutch upon which a large part of Singapore’s social welfare system rests.