A 53-year-old Singaporean woman wrote to a local newspaper questioning whether it was legal for remittance firms to lend domestic workers money to make remittances that they might struggle to repay.
The woman surnamed Chen told Shin Min Daily News that her 27-year-old Filipina maid, who has worked for her since March 2017, took a 12-day annual break to return home to the Philippines.
Prior to the vacation, the Filipina secretly borrowed from at least five remittance shops without informing her employer.
Chen only became aware of the situation in August when she received calls from moneylenders who demanded her employee settle her debts as soon as possible. Some monelenders even visited the employer’s home and sent bills to her, prompting the employer to file a case with the police.
She also confronted her worker who, after initially denying taking out loans, finally admitted that she borrowed a total of nearly S$6,000 (US$4,363) to buy gifts for her family and to treat them to an expensive dinner at a hotel when she was home.
Chen said that although her worker regretted her actions and promised to settle the debts, the sum involved was exorbitant, and would take her a very long time to pay back.
She speculated that her worker might have fallen victim to compatriots working with illegal money lenders, encouraging her to borrow from multiple outlets at the same time, Chen added.
Meanwhile, reporters visited one such remittance shop, where a female customer – a domestic worker in Singapore – said the business offered money transfers in advance of up to S$2,000 (US$1,454), half of which had to be cleared in four months, plus interest of S$350.