Most families can do without maids
THE issue of maid shortage is an ongoing problem, not only in Singapore but also in neighbouring countries.The title that the Straits Times chose for this letter is somewhat deceptive. It says that "most families" can do without maids. However, Emily Leong didn't actually say that.
In the past, having a live-in helper was a luxury, but now, many families with working parents have come to see a maid as a necessity.
I believe only two types of families cannot do without maids: those with young children, and those with elderly or sick members.
For all other families, there are many other options, such as day care, childcare or part-time help.
I used to have a maid to look after my young children when I was a working mother. But I am now a stay-at-home mum.
Our family could afford to continue hiring a maid, but we decided instead to train our two boys - then eight and six - to do some housework, and my husband agreed to help out at home when he is not travelling.
Every family member learns to do something in the house, such as making the bed, folding the clothes, or doing the dishes.
Instead of going to enrichment classes, the children do housework with us (bonding), learn to prepare a simple meal and clean up after cooking (basic life skills).
We were so used to having a maid for eight years that it had seemed impossible to live without one. It has been 11/2 years now, and our family is managing well.
When my children's classmates ask why they have no maid, they can answer proudly that we do not need one.
Having a maid is an easy option, as it is still fairly affordable to hire one in Singapore. But if our children grow up seeing all the cooking and household chores done only by the maid, they will grow up thinking there is no other option.
Emily Leong (Ms)
What Emily did say was that families with young children, and families with elderly or sick members, do need maids (while other types of families do not). In addition, when Emily offered her own personal circumstances as an example, she pointed out that she doesn't need a maid because she is a stay-at-home mother.
So that would be another type of family (in Emily's opinion) that doesn't need a maid - families where there is a stay-at-home mother.
However, how many families in Singapore neither have a young child; nor an elderly person; nor a working mother? I doubt that there are that many such families. Certainly, I don't think that such families would constitute "most families" in Singapore.
In fact, I have never known any Singaporean family of the "young, married, no kids" variety, who bother to employ a maid at all.
Now, I offer a simple reason why so many other Singaporean families are dependent on maids. It's because Singaporeans have the longest working hours in the world (another one of our nation's unenviable world records):
Singapore sweats away the hours - and productivityIf Singaporeans spend so much time at work, the inevitable consequence is that they have less time to do their own household chores. Hence the dependence on maids.
Singaporeans may not be aware that they have overtaken the industrious South Koreans in notching up the highest number of hours worked per year worldwide.
Sun, Jan 31, 2010
The Business Times
By ANNA TEO
Here's a world-leading pole position for Singapore that probably explains quite a bit of its dismal productivity record of late.
Beavering away doggedly, Singaporeans may not be aware that they have, for the past two years, overtaken the industrious South Koreans in notching up the highest number of hours worked per year, worldwide.
Clocking 2,307 work hours in 2009 - a number that apparently has stayed constant since 1992, according to The Conference Board's data - the average Singaporean surpassed the other East Asians, the most hardworking globally.
Going by The Conference Board's Total Economy Database - which carries 'annual working hours' for 51 countries dating from 1950 - the South Koreans had been the undisputed workhorse world champions for three decades, ever since they overtook the previous leaders, the Taiwanese, in 1975. The Koreans and Taiwanese were clocking well over 2,700 hours a year for years.
But - as is the trend worldwide - annual working hours have fallen over the decades, including Korea's.
Singapore's 'constant' 2,307 annual hours exceeded Korea's in 2008. For 2009, Korea's 2,259 work hours fell behind even Hong Kong's 2,287 hours. Taiwan clocked in at 2,156 hours, while Japan's 1,722 is close to the US level (1,742 hours).
Apart from the East Asians, virtually everyone else (except Greece, Chile and Mexico) put in fewer than 2,000 hours a year, with many well under.
For Singapore, the long hours - especially in a year of poor output such as 2009 - would explain its recent poor productivity figures.