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17 Hidden Costs You Should Know Before Hiring a Domestic Helper

Jan 27, 2022

Since 2010, there are has been a 27% increase in the number of foreign domestic workers in Singapore. From 201,000 it increased to 255,800 as of June 2019, about one out of five households now employs maid services. Singaporeans have busy work lives and as such, it is easy to lack time to care for day to day maintenance of the household. From the luxury that it was in the 1930s, hiring maids is now a necessity for Singaporean households. Maids are essential to managing a home in Singapore, especially as they not only handle household chores but they can also accompany a young child to school and attend to an elderly family member.

If you have decided on getting an extra helping hand around the house, it is important to be aware of the cost of hiring a maid in Singapore before acquiring one. All these costs can add up so best to know what to expect so you can properly allot it to your budget.

What is a Domestic Helper?

Domestic helpers are employed to work for private households. A foreign domestic worker or migrant domestic worker can be expected to do tasks such as household chores such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, shopping for food and any errands for the upkeep of the household or caring for children, elderly or sick family members.

Several notes to keep in mind when hiring a maid. Maids must be unrelated to the employer, female, aged between 23-50 at the time of application and with a minimum of 8 years of formal education with a certificate. They must come from approved sources like countries Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Macau, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Myanmar, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Korea, and Taiwan and be employed at your home address.

Recurring Costs

The minimum monthly recurring cost of hiring a maid is around $857. Inclusive of salary, concessionary levy and daily living expenses.

1. Monthly Salary

The monthly salary will depend on the country of origin and the experience of the maid. There is no set minimum by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) but the industry rates for minimum salary per country of origin is as follows:

Philippines – $570

Indonesia – $550

Cambodia – $500

Sri Lanka – $497

Myanmar – $450

The average monthly salary of a maid in Singapore is $597. A Foreign domestic worker with no prior experience may accept minimum wage, although this amount is still to be agreed upon between the employer and the maid. The amount of a maid’s salary must be declared to MOM. You are also required to inform MOM of any changes made to the maid’s salary, to be submitted with written consent from your helper.

Transfer maids or maids who have experience working in Singapore will be paid higher. The same goes for maids who have specialized knowledge taking care of the elderly, people with disabilities and children. They received 650-800 before the pandemic. With restrictions in place because of COVID-19, there are fewer new domestic helpers so there is a growth in the demand for maid transfer, thus inflating their salary rates.

Secure the trust of your helper and offer a fair, competitive wage so you can build a good working relationship with her.

2. Foreign Worker Levy

A monthly levy of $300 is imposed on the first domestic helper while $450 for any subsequent hires. It can be reduced to $60 if you qualify for a levy concession. To qualify for a maid levy concession, you must have a house member who falls under one of the following categories:

– A child below 16 years old

-Elderly member at least 67 years old

– A person with disabilities

There is a limit of two concessionary levies per household, where one eligible individual grants a levy to one domestic helper. You can apply for a concessionary levy through MOM’s website. Failure to pay the levy will incur a late penalty fee of 2% or $20 per month. It can also put at risk your helper’s work permit and ban you from applying for a work permit, issuing a new work permit or renewing an existing work permit.

3. Daily Living Expenses

It is important to remember that hiring a maid essentially means adding another member to your household. As such their daily living expenses should be included in your budget. Food and utilities, grocery, transport and mobile data could add up to $200- $300 worth of monthly expenses. This could increase and depends if you bring along your maid for family outings or pay for other leisure activities.

One-Time Costs

Maid Agency fees, Placement Fees and Orientation fees amount to $8110 while domestic workers medical expenses can cost $363. In total, the minimum one-time costs to hire a maid is $8,473.

4. Maid Agency Fees

If it is your first time hiring a maid in Singapore and you have no particular person in mind you wish to hire, a maid agency can help you. Maid agencies charge e a fixed cost for their services that could range from 1000 to 3000 as you are paying not only for their network and expertise but also other services that would ensure you are matched with a domestic helper that meets your requirements. This accounts for their help in handling applications such as work permits, medical screening, airfare and medical insurance of a new maid. To reduce your cost, you can opt to hire transfer maids through recommendations from family and friends. There are also online domestic helper matching platforms that charge way less than the usual maid agency.

5. Medical Insurance

MOM requires that your domestic helper is covered by at least $15,000 a year for inpatient care and day surgery. In addition, she should be covered by personal accident insurance with a minimum assured sum of $60,000 annually to cover any accidents that result in permanent injury or death. Most maid agencies would already include maid insurance in the agency fee. However, if you are hiring a maid independently, this could cost from $225 to $330 for a 26 months’ coverage or a two-year contract.

6. Maid Placement Fee

Depending on the country of origin of your domestic helper, an additional placement fee or bond may be required. For example, if you are hiring a domestic helper from the Philippines, there is a performance bond to be paid to the Philippines Overseas Labour Office. If you are hiring through accredited maid agencies, it will cost $2000. If you are hiring from a different agency or through direct hires, the bond amount is $7000.

7. Work Permit Costs (application & issuance),

The work permit application/renewal is $35. The issuance fee is an additional $35, adding up to 70.

8. Settling-in Programme Fees,

Settling-in Programme was designed to give your domestic helper more insight into working as a maid in Singapore. There’s also a rundown of the conditions of employment and home safety. SIP is compulsory when hiring a new maid and costs $75.

9. Employer’s Orientation Programme

MOM also requires first-time employers to attend an orientation program which can help understand their role and responsibility as MDW employers. This costs $35


10. Airfare to Singapore

Airfare costs would be combined with the agency fee. For independent hires, it can cost around $100-$400 to fly in a new domestic helper from her home country.

11. Medical Examinations

The pre employment medical examination fee costs $8. There is also a compulsory medical examination for domestic helpers that is required every 6 months. Each visit may cost up to $30 which adds up to $60 per year. For employers who wish their domestic helpers to stay longer than two years, they are required to pay an HIV ($30) and tuberculosis examination ($40) for their helpers.

12. Security Bond/Deposit

A security bond of $5000 is required by MOM for each domestic helper hired. This can be in the form of an Insurance Guarantee. This is a guarantee to the government that both employer and helper will adhere to laws and work permit conditions. Malaysian helpers are exempted. This will be returned once the helper’s work permit is cancelled and has returned home.

COVID-19 Related Costs

Due to safety measures and travel restrictions due to COVID-19, there are additional costs to hiring a maid.

Higher Services Costs

As there are additional requirements when bringing a new maid in Singapore, employment agencies would charge more for the additional work as requirements such as valid COVID-19 swab tests are time-sensitive. Furthermore, airfare costs have also increased due to limited flight availability.

Due to restrictions, there are fewer new domestic helpers in Singapore so maid transfers have higher demand. The average salary for a transfer maid also increased to $800-$1000.

The following are the cost breakdown for tests that are required for domestic helpers entering Singapore as well as a 14-day SHN at a dedicated facility. This can amount to $1,367.

Antigen Rapid Test (ART) at the checkpoint – $67

Serology and PCR tests – $175

14-day SHN at a dedicated facility – $1000-$1500

PCR test on day 14 of SHN -$125

Other Costs

Personal accident and Medical Insurance with COVID 19 cover

An additional 10,000 is required in case your helper develops symptoms of COVID 19 or tests positive within 14 days of arrival in Singapore.

Compensation for Working on Rest Days

Helpers are entitled to weekly rest days, which add up to four a month. If a maid agrees to work on a rest day, then it must be compensated with one day of your domestic helper’s salary or a replacement rest day in the same month. Depending on your agreement, this could be $15-$23 per day.

Should I Hire a Maid for Elderly in Singapore?

We observed here at Retire Genie that there is a growing demand for elderly care services in Singapore. With an ageing population, a demographic shift is occurring as about a quarter of the population will be aged 65 and above and health care services are rising to meet the demand. Of the many options, you can consider hiring a full-time maid to care for an elderly person.

It primarily depends on the needs of your family member and the care they require. Maid for Elderly would be apt to keep your elderly family members company as they take walks or go to the hospital for doctor’s appointments. They can also help with light household chores to ensure your loved one is eating and sleeping properly. They can also be tasked to make sure your loved ones drink their prescribed medicine on time. However, maids are not healthcare professionals. As such, if your loved one requires more attention and specialized care, consider enlisting the help of more individuals like caregivers or nurses available for home care Singapore.

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