This article was originally posted on 20 March 2019 and has been updated to provide the latest information. Additional reporting by Angela Koo.
In Singapore, there are about 250,000 foreign domestic workers (FDWs) being employed. This means about one in five Singapore households employ a maid to help them with general housework, cooking, and to look after the elderly, young children or family members with disabilities.
If you don’t already know, hiring a maid in Singapore goes beyond just the salary that you need to pay. In this article, we will help guide you through the various costs that you incur when employing a maid so that you can accurately budget for it.
# 1 Salary
Salary is the biggest monthly recurring cost that you will be paying.
Depending on which country your maid comes from, the salary that you can expect to pay may differ.
|Country||Minimum Monthly Salary|
If you are employing a younger FDW with no prior experience, it’s possible that they may accept the minimum salary required. Similar to all salary negotiations, this is between employer and FDW. Do note that the above figures only represent the minimum monthly salary you need to pay if you engage a FDW from one of the countries. You should expect to pay more, particularly if the FDW that you employ has prior experience working in Singapore or elsewhere.
Besides the countries listed above, you can also employ FDWs from the following countries – Bangladesh; Cambodia; Hong Kong; India; Macau; Malaysia; South Korea; Taiwan; Thailand.
Do note that your FDWs need to be between the age of 23 to 50 at the time of application. They must also have a minimum of 8 years of formal education with a recognised certificate. Find out more about their eligibility requirements here.
In general, if you are employing a maid with experience, you should expect to pay more than the minimum. HelperChoice, a platform that helps connect employers to helpers, found that the average salary of a maid in Singapore is $597.
Estimated Cost: About $600
# 2 Maid Levy
As of 1 April 2019, the current maid levy in Singapore is $300 per month. For subsequent FDWs, it’s $450.
If you qualify for a concessionary levy, this will be reduced to $60. The concessionary rate applies to families who have family members as stated below.
- Child or grandchild below 16 years old.
- Elderly family member who is at least 67 years old.
- Family member who needs help with at least one daily activity.
However, you stop qualifying for levy concession when the:
- Child or grandchild turns 16 years old.
- Person needing care (young child, aged or disabled family member) has passed away.
- Person needing care no longer stays with you.
- Person needing care is no longer a Singapore citizen
Estimated Cost: $60 (with concession) or $300 (no concession)
# 3 Working On Rest Days
Your maid is entitled to a weekly rest day. This means about four days each month.
If your maid agrees to work on her rest day, you should compensate her with at least one day’s salary, or a replacement rest day taken within the same month. For example, if your maid only takes two days off each month, and works on the other two off days, you should compensate her with two additional days of salary for the month.
Assuming her salary is $600 each month, the two additional days would cost $46 ($600 divide by 26, multiple by 2).
Estimated Cost: $46 (assuming two additional working days)
# 4 Living Expenses
Living expenses is one of the unseen costs that you should not ignore.
Employing a maid is like having an additional adult living in your home. At the very least, you should account for the additional utility, groceries and public transportation costs incurred.
There may be other costs you incur. If your family eats out often and you do not wish to leave your maid behind, you should expect to spend more on these family outings. Also, some employers may wish to pay for items such as telecommunication bills and other leisure activities that their maid participates in. This will add up.
Estimated Cost: About $200 (low estimate, likely to be higher for many families)
Total Recurring Costs Each Month*
|Working On Rest Days||$46 (assuming two days a month)|
|Total||$906/month or $1,146 (with no concessionary levy)|
* Assuming a salary of $600 per month, working on two rest days and with the concessionary levy.
One-Off Lump Sum Cost
Besides the monthly recurring cost, you also need to pay for other one-off expenses when employing a maid, namely insurance, airfare, medical screening, employment agency fee and application fees.
If this is the first time you are employing a maid, and you don’t have anyone that you know whom you wish to hire, the easiest way to find suitable help will be to engage a maid agency. The right maid agency will help you source the right helper based on your requirements.
An agency will also handle most of the applications or guide you through them such as work permit application, medical screening, airfare and insurance requirements. Most maid agencies will charge a fixed cost for their services. In general, you can expect to pay between $1,000 to $3,000 for their services with an average of about $2,500 (inclusive of insurance, airfare and application fee) for your FDW.
To lower your cost, you can consider opting for a maid transfer. This is when you get a maid who is already employed by another household in Singapore, as opposed to one who is flying in from her home country which costs more. Do check however for the reason for the transfer. You can also consider getting your own maid insurance policy for your FDW if you prefer, or if you are not intending to find a helper through an agency.
Estimated Cost: $3,000 for typical airfare, insurance and application fees (we assumed a higher fee due to the increased difficulty of the entry application process and difficulty in securing flights due to the tightened border security caused by the pandemic.
Additional COVID-19 Related Costs
Due to additional COVID-19 travel restrictions, safety measures and additional work in administration and coordination, the costs you have to pay have increased significantly.
To bring in a new maid to Singapore during the pandemic, there are new safety measures that must be met: e.g. entry approval from MOM, valid COVID-19 swab tests prior to the maid’s departure, Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) period served at an approved facility, etc. All these costs add up even if you are not using an agency (e.g. SHN dedicated facilities cost about S$1,300 to $2,000 for 14-day SHN while COVID-19 tests cost about S$125 to S$160 each). Thus, agencies have increased their service fees to account for the additional work needed to coordinate all these new time-sensitive requirements while airfare costs may have also increased due to limited flight availability.
Additionally, from 1 January 2021, employers must buy additional medical insurance for the maid before her arrival to cover any COVID-19 related medical expenses. This insurance must have a coverage of at least S$10,000 for the workers’ medical expenses if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive within 14 days of arrival in Singapore.
Update: As of 7 May 2021, MOM has announced that work passes for FDWs scheduled to arrive from higher-risk countries would be rescheduled while no new entry applications would be accepted. This affects all countries except Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Mainland China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macao. This change means that effectively employers cannot hire any new FDW from overseas until the COVID-19 situation improves and measures are relaxed again.
For those who have managed to obtain prior approval for their FDW entry applications and are affected by the rescheduling, their FDW will be subject to 21-day SHN and COVID-19 swab test on-arrival, after 14 days and at the end of their 21-SHN. This would bring the cost about $3,410 ($3,000 for single person 21-day SHN stay and $160 for on-arrival PCR test and $125x 2 COVID-19 swab tests while serving SHN)
Estimated Cost: $3,410 for additional COVID-19 related costs.
Placement Fee/Maid Loan
Most maid agencies will have this component called a placement fee, sometimes also known as a maid loan. This is basically an amount which is a loan that you pay to the maid agency on behalf of the maid. Think of this as what the maid is paying the agency in order to work in Singapore.
According to a Straits Times article, maids coming to Singapore from the Philippines should be using only up to half of their monthly salary to repay a loan, up to an amount of $1,100. This covers her pre-employment expenses such as training and medical examination.
Placement fee/maid loan are not considered as part of your expenses since you will be receiving the loan back through deductions made from the maid’s salary in the initial months.
Some maid agencies charge a placement fee that is higher than two months of the maid’s salary. This is not allowed and as a responsible employer, we need to be aware that our prospective FDW should not be paying more than two months as a placement fee to Singapore maid agencies.
Do note that unfortunately, MOM cannot regulate the fees charged in the workers’ home countries. So it’s still technically possible that while the Singapore agency only charges two months of salary as placement fee, the FDW may have already agreed to pay more to the agency in her home country. Employers can check with the Singapore maid agencies to ensure that their FDW isn’t paying more than what’s stipulated.
Update: The proposed implementation of exemption of placement fee policy been deferred until mid-July 2021. Originally intended to start from 15 January 2021, employers hiring Indonesian maids will need to pay the placement fee instead due to a new ruling by Indonesian authorities. This is to enable new Indonesian FDWs to come to Singapore debt-free. This placement fee is estimated to be around $1,500 to $1,800.
Total Cost Of Engaging A Maid – Over A Period of 2 Years
If you add up the monthly recurring cost ($906 per month) to the one-off lump sum cost (about $2,000), you should expect to spend at least $24,000 over a period of 2 years, or about $1,000 per month. This should be taken as an estimate on the low-end. With the additional lump-sum costs due to COVID-19, this will work out to about $1,100 per month or an additional $100 over a 2-year period. If you are hiring an Indonesian maid and paying for the additional maid placement fee, this will work out to be around $1,170 per month over a 2-year period.
This is an amount that you and your family should carefully budget for before you proceed to engage a maid.
Remember the costs can increase. For example, you should consider the following costs after two years
– If you are no longer intending to extend your FDW, you will need to purchase a one-way ticket back home for her. This may cost you a few hundred dollars.
– Your maid would need to go for a medical check-up every six months. This is mandatory.
– You need to set aside a $5,000 security bond for each non-Malaysian maid you employ. While this is a cost that will be recovered at the end of her employment, you still need to foot the upfront cost.
– If you intend to renew your FDW work permit, you will also need to buy her a new maid insurance policy. This would cost you about $200 to $300 for a period of 26 months.
Read Also: Guide To Buying Maid Insurance In Singapore
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