Guide to hiring a domestic helper in Singapore
Hiring a domestic helper can truly be a life-saver for us in Singapore as we navigate our busy, hectic lifestyles. They help keep our houses clean, do our laundry, and cook delicious meals while we work our 9-to-6 outside most days. And if we’ve got kids and pets? Some domestic helpers can even care for them in our stead.
With that said, hiring a domestic helper in Singapore is a fairly complex process. Beyond the salary and living expenses of the domestic helper, you’ll also have to take into account other costs like the levy, security bond, insurance, and medical examinations.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the costs you can expect to incur in hiring a domestic helper, and the administrative steps you have to take to employ her.
Check out our other articles on home and living in Singapore:
– Part I: Costs of Hiring a Domestic Helper –
While factors like your domestic helper’s country of origin and level of experience might determine her salary, you’ll also have to bear in mind extra costs like insurance, foreign worker levy, and medical checkups. We begin the breakdown of costs beginning with recurring costs you’ll have to fork out throughout your helper’s stay with you:
Here is a quick glance at the minimum amount you can expect to spend:
|Monthly Cost||Annual Cost|
|Levy (with concession)||$60||$720|
|Security bond + insurance||$292||$292|
|Six-monthly medical examination||$60||$120|
*Average calculated from all countries listed in the “Country of Origin” section below.
Country of origin
Image credit: A1 Employment Agency Pte Ltd
Domestic helpers in Singapore hail from across the region, and several of their home governments set minimum salaries to ensure. On top of that, there’s also a market rate for helpers’ salaries depending on their nationality:
|Country of Origin||Min. Wage Set by Embassy||Average Monthly Salary|
Countries with asterisk (*) do not have government-mandated minimum salaries. Average Monthly Salary figures are sourced from Transfer Maids.
If planning for the long term, the above figures account for zero prior working experience. In addition, all domestic helpers are entitled to at least one day of rest per week, and you’ll have to top up her salary should you require her to work on her rest day.
Level of experience
Experienced helpers can be a godsend especially if you require help caring for children or the elderly. But while they might be more familiar with the ins and outs of the job, this experience naturally comes at an additional cost. You’re free to negotiate this figure with her, but here’s a rough guideline:
|Years of experience||Monthly Salary|
|1||$500 to $620|
|2 to 5||$650|
|≥6||$700 to $975|
Image credit: IMDb
As Anthony Chen’s heartwarming Ilo Ilo shows, hiring a domestic helper is akin to adding a new member to your family. Your kids will bond with her, and your parents will also come to rely on her for support when you’re not home.
And as with any other family member, you’ll need to factor your helper’s living expenses into your budget. A good starting monthly figure you can look at is $100, which is enough to cover travel and basic necessities.
This amount dramatically varies from family to family – but you’ll want to allocate extra to cover her phone bills, food when she eats out with your family, and for errands outside your home.
The foreign worker levy is a monthly fee paid to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), and is currently structured as below:
|Type of levy||Monthly rate||Daily rate|
|Normal (1st-time worker)||$300||$9.87|
Note: The daily rate is applicable for workers who do not complete a full calendar month.
You might have spotted that the concessionary rate is significantly lower than the other amounts. To qualify for this subsidised rate, you’ll have to live with the following individuals who are Singaporean citizens:
- Young child below 16 years old
- Elderly person who is at least 67 years old
- Person with disabilities who is certified by a Singapore-registered doctor. They should require assistance with at least one daily living activity, including showering, feeding, dressing, or toileting.
Security bond and insurance
Image credit: Jforce Maid Agency
As foreign domestic helpers are not covered under Singapore’s Work Injury Compensation Act, you will need to purchase a $5,000 security bond from your choice of bank or insurance firm. This acts as a kind of deposit – and might be withheld by the government should you or your maid break any regulations or Work Permit conditions.
In addition to the security bond, you’re also required to take out a medical and personal accident insurance plan for your helper. Based on MOM domestic helper insurance guidelines, these are the minimum areas of coverage you have to fulfil:
|Insurance type||Minimum coverage amount||Coverage|
|Medical||$15,000 per year||
|$10,000 per year||
|Personal accident||$60,000 per year||
As with all official fees and levies, you cannot make your helper bear the cost of the insurance plans you buy for her.
Many domestic helper insurance plans come packaged with the security bond, making it easier for you to get everything in one go. Below are a few insurance plans you can look into:
|Plan||Medical coverage||Personal accident coverage||Covid-19 coverage||MOM security bond||Annual premium*|
|HL Assurance Maid Protect360 – Enhanced||$15,000||$80,000||$15,000||$5,000||$292|
|FWD Maid Insurance – Essential Plan||$15,000||$60,000||– $15,000 for hospitalisation expenses
– $10,000 for repatriation expenses
|MSIG MaidPlus Standard Plan (with Covid-19 Cover rider)||$15,000||$60,000||$30,000||$5,000||$329.56|
*Premium values are before discounts. Do check in with each individual plan as they may be discounted.
Six-monthly medical examination (6ME)
As its name suggests, the six-monthly medical examination (6ME) is a medical screening that your helper needs to attend once every six months. This screening is important to ensure she has a clean bill of health while she works with you in Singapore.
A typical 6ME will cost you between $60 to $120. Below is a breakdown of the cost:
|Dental check-up (optional)||$60|
Figures sourced from MSIG.
Other medical tests you are required to do for your helper are to be arranged at later points in her career. They include the following:
|HIV||Every 2 years||$30|
|Tuberculosis||Every 2 years||$40|
Figures sourced from MSIG.
One-off administrative costs
Image credit: Peanut Job
Typically, these are costs that you only have to pay once when you hire your helper. On top of air tickets, work permit application and agency fees, you’ll also have to bear the cost of your helper’s Covid-19 tests and quarantine.
Below are the minimum one-off administrative costs you have to foot at a glance:
|Pre-employment medical screening||$80|
|Employers’ Orientation Programme||$35|
|Employment agency fees||$1,000|
|Covid-19 tests and 14-day quarantine||$1,500|
When you fly in a new domestic helper, you have to pay for her airfare. The table shows you a quick glimpse into the airfares you can expect to pay:
|Country of origin||Estimated lowest airfares*|
|Philippines||$753 to $1,315|
|Indonesia||$113 to $365|
|Cambodia||$243 to $388|
*Airfares are taken from Skyscanner, accurate as of 2 Aug 2021.
Pre-employment medical screening
Before your domestic helper has her work permit issued by MOM, you must first send her for a pre-employment medical examination. This should be done within two weeks of her arrival in Singapore or one week from her Stay-Home Notice period.
A typical health screening will cost you $80, covering tests for tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis, and malaria, along with general mental and physical health.
Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP)
The EOP is a compulsory programme that gives you an understanding of your role as an employer and the litany of responsibilities that come with it. You must attend an EOP at least two working days before you apply for a work permit.
You can choose to attend your EOP either in a classroom or online. The fees for most courses are start from $35, but they can range to $60 depending on your preferred language and mode of instruction:
- Grace Management & Consultancy Services Pte Ltd – Online and physical courses in English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin every Friday
- Nation Employment Pte Ltd – Walk-in courses every Wednesday
- We Are Caring Pte Ltd – Online courses at a flat $35
Now that you’ve gotten the fundamental administrative details out of the way, you can simply apply for a work permit online, which will cost you $35. You’ll have to foot another $35 once the work permit is issued.
Domestic helpers working for the first time in Singapore will have to undergo MOM’s Settling-In Programme to help them acclimatise to local laws and customs. This programme will cost you $75, and you can sign up for it at one of the three organisations below:
Employment agency fees
Image credit: Inter Great Employment Singapore
To make things easier for yourself, you may wish to engage an employment agency to handle the administrative work for you – they typically charge between $1,000 and $3,000 for their services.
That’s not a small sum, so you might want to do some research on the MOM list of Employment Agencies. By picking firms with high placement volumes and retention rates, you’ll be better guaranteed to find the right match for the long haul. You should also take a look at their user reviews and ask around for recommendations to get a clearer picture.
Covid-19 tests and 14-day quarantine
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is now necessary for you to send your helper for Covid-19 tests and 14-day quarantine before she can begin to work in your home. According to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority’s Safe Travel division, you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 for both the tests and the quarantine at an isolation facility.
Additional placement fee (Indonesian helpers only)
If you intend to hire a helper from Indonesia, take note that the Indonesian government is implementing an extra placement fee of up to $2,000 that you now have to foot.
This is due to a law passed by the Indonesian government in December 2020 to protect new helpers from debt while paying for training, visas and other fees to enter Singapore.
Other costs to consider
|Image credit: Best Housekeeper
While it’s not absolutely necessary that you increase your helper’s pay over time, it’s still good to do so to reward her when she works hard and does her job well.
There’s no fixed industry standard on how much you can raise your helper’s pay, so it really depends on how much more you can afford to set aside each month for her.
Image credit: Tailormaid Services Singapore
Transfer helpers are experienced helpers who are already living in Singapore. As they’re familiar with the local environment and their various duties as a helper, they can provide immediate assistance with caretaking duties or other household tasks.
However, this expertise comes at a cost, with a salary range of between $800 – $1,000. This is higher than the salaries for new helpers, although you can save in terms of one-off fees. Depending on the economy and other factors, transfer helpers can also be tricky to find, although portals like Transfer Maid can help you locate potential candidates to talk to.
– Part II: Preparing yourself and your family –
Now that you’ve got a clearer picture of the costs involved in hiring a domestic helper, here are some extra considerations so you can make the best decision.
Decide on your needs
Image credit: JForce Employment Service
To start, you will first need to identify your needs. Do you need help taking care of your kids? Or perhaps you have elderly and/or disabled family members who require round-the-clock care. Maybe you just need someone to keep your house spick-and-span while you focus on your super-packed schedule.
As you consider the main tasks your helper will have to tackle, MOM has some broad guidelines on factors to look out for in a domestic helper:
- Language abilities
- Physical strength
- Caretaking experience
Interviewing and hiring your helper
Image credit: Inter Great Employment Singapore
When you’ve narrowed down some potential helpers, you’ll want to speak to them to get a feel of their personalities and capabilities. Here are some pointers you can consider when crafting questions for your interviews:
- Personal background
- Motivations for working as a domestic helper
- Understanding of household chores and tasks
- Ability to cook
- Experience with children, elderly, disabled and pets
- Experience working as a domestic helper
- Reasons for leaving present employer
- Chores she typically does for her present employer
- Rest day arrangements
When you’re done asking the standard basic questions, you may want to ask more situational questions:
- What will you do if my child misbehaves in public? (E.g. On the bus home from school)
- How will you respond to my dog if he poops while you’re walking him?
- If my child falls down while cycling, what will you do?
- If my father has difficulties breathing, how will you respond?
As a bonus, you can also bring along your children to see how she interacts with them.
Considering more affordable and alternative arrangements
While a full-time maid can help immensely with caretaking duties, engaging a part-time helper from a home cleaning service can be much more cost-effective for simple day-to-day chores.
According to MSIG, the minimum rates you can expect to pay are as follows:
- Hourly: $18 – $30 per hour
- Monthly (assuming one 4-hour cleaning session each week): $230 – $500 per month
Hiring a domestic helper in Singapore
Hiring a domestic helper in Singapore is no mean feat – with many steps to take and a rather large expense to consider. But if you’re sure that you need the extra helping hand, it’s well worth your time and effort to hire one to ease your workload.
Check out our other articles on adulting in Singapore
- How much salary is needed to live in Singapore
- Easy finance goals for Singaporeans
- Is getting a car in Singapore worth it?
Cover image credit: Jforce