An employment agency in Singapore has made their way to headlines, but for all the wrong reasons. The hypothetical joke that humans would be sold online now seems to have become a harsh reality. Singapore has charged an employment agency for posting advertisements offering Indonesian helpers for sale on an e-commerce site, the city-state’s labour ministry said.
Singapore is crammed with more than 250,000 maids – a majority from poor parts of Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar – who have made this tiny yet prosperous city-state their abode, with a dream that one day they would take back their high earned salaries to their hometown.
Although the conditions for Indonesian maids in tightly-regulated Singapore are generally regarded as better than in other places, such as Malaysia or parts of the Middle East, the ads on online marketplace Carousell sparked a rare flare-up of tensions over the issue.
The advertisements were posted under the username “maid.recruitment” and offered the services of several helpers from Indonesia, while some ads indicated maids have already been “sold”. It strikes hard when the word “sell” is associated with a homo sapiens being.
The ads triggered anger in Indonesia, with NGO Migrant Care slamming them as “unjust and demeaning”, and were later removed from the site.
A total of 243 charges were slapped on SRC International Recruitment and the employee responsible for the posts, including 49 counts each for publishing “insensitive advertisements”, said the ministry on Thursday.
Along with these charges, the job agency’s license was also suspended in September.
The Singapore ministry said it expects employment agencies "to exercise sensitivity when marketing their services." Kevin Teoh, commissioner for employment agencies at the ministry, earlier said advertising foreign maids on an internet platform meant for trading goods was "completely inappropriate and unacceptable." And manpower minister Josephine Teo said she was "deeply disturbed" by the adverts, urging Singaporeans to treat maids with respect.