The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recently issued an advisory on foreign domestic helpers spending their rest day outside. The advisory stipulated that these foreign domestic workers (FDWs) can only go out on a week day if they had sought the permission of their employers. On top of that, these FDWs are also expected to observe rules such as not gathering in groups beyond five people, as well as not loitering or gathering in FDW-haunts such as Lucky Plaza, City Plaza, and Peninsula Plaza.

The requirements riled up local human rights activists who saw it as a transgression of the basic human rights of these FDWs, under the guise of public health and safety. 

These activists believe that the same rules should apply to both lcoals and foreign workers like the FDWs.

"If the rest of the population is not told when they can leave home, FDWs should not be treated differently...They should be allowed to meet their friends to relieve some of their mental stress... Having to take their rest days on weekdays may inhibit that."



Another activist, Jolovan Wham, went beyond his call of duty for the FDWs. He wrote in to MOM to address the discriminatory advisory and to highlight that there are should not be any differences between locals and FDWs. He called on other like-minded Singaporeans to similarly write in to MOM.

I read with disappointment the latest advisory from your Ministry stating that foreign domestic workers should only go out on weekdays for their rest days and that they even need the consent of their employers whether to stay home or not on their days off.
Domestic workers spend all of their time in their employer's homes. Since circuit breaker started, similar advisories from your Ministry forbid them from going out. This has worsened their already stressful lives, especially those who do not have their own rooms and private space to rest. The nature of live-in domestic work means that rest hours and working hours are not clear. As a result, domestic workers are either working or on standby for most of the day. Given such conditions, a rest day where they are free to do as they please, whether it is to socialise, take up classes or to run errands is badly needed.
Singaporeans and others in the community have been urged not to gather in groups of more than five, practise social distancing, and to wear a face mask at all times when outdoors. But we have not been told that we can't leave our homes, nor have we been denied weekend rest days. The same principles should apply to our migrant domestic workers. I hope the Ministry can reverse its decision on this matter. We should be striving to eliminate discrimination, instead of reinforcing them in our policies.


This is why the work done by the like of Wham and HOME to highlight the plight of these FDWs must be appreciated by Singaporeans.

They shed light on the discriminatory practices that are not in line with progressive community. The FDWs are part of the public and should be treated as such and not apart from locals.

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