Is it true that over 60% of foreign domestic workers here are exploited?

No. In fact, 97% have no issues with their workload and want to continue working here.


A Research Across Borders (RAB) survey published in Nov 2017 claimed that over 60% of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore were exploited. The survey methodology, however, was full of flaws.

What was wrong with the survey?

1. Indicators used: The survey used an overly simplistic interpretation of the International Labour Organisation’s indicators of labour exploitation. For example, it ignored the unique nature of domestic work, where work and personal time in the context of domestic work cannot be easily differentiated, and may result in a skewed conclusion that FDWs work excessively.

2. Exaggeration of situations: The survey applied "isolation" and "confinement" to describe situations where a FDW needed her employer's permission to leave the house or to return by a certain time on her rest day. This ignored the employers’ responsibility for the safety and well-being of both the FDW and family members, especially the young and the aged who require the care of the FDW.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had highlighted these misinterpretations to RAB researcher Anja Wessels in 2016 when she sought feedback from MOM on her preliminary analysis. Nevertheless, RAB proceeded to publish the inaccurate findings without correcting or addressing the misinterpretations.

What is the real picture?

MOM’s survey of 1,000 FDWs in 2015 found that 97% were satisfied working here, would continue working here, and had no issues with workload. In fact, as at Sep 2017, about 2 in 3 (160,000) FDWs have worked in Singapore for over two years, and about 1 in 2 (110,000) have worked here for over four years.* As can be seen, the RAB survey painted a misleading picture of the employment of FDWs here.

*There were 243,000 FDWs here as of June 2017.


MOM Media Statement (1 Dec 2017)

MOM Foreign Domestic Worker Study 2015

This article is accurate as of Jan 2018. For latest updates, head over to

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