Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/228488
Title: LABOUR PAINS: HISTORICIZING MIGRANT DOMESTIC WORKER POLICY IN SINGAPORE (1978-1990)
Authors: KOH HONG KAI
Keywords: Migrant Domestic Worker
Foreign Maid
Government Policies
Migrant Labour Policy
Working Mothers
Exploitation
Issue Date: 30-Mar-2022
Citation: KOH HONG KAI (2022-03-30). LABOUR PAINS: HISTORICIZING MIGRANT DOMESTIC WORKER POLICY IN SINGAPORE (1978-1990). ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: The Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW) in Singapore has her origins in the Foreign Domestic Servant Scheme (FDSS), first implemented on 20 May 1978. To prevent the MDW from permanently settling in Singapore, a S$10,000 security deposit was imposed on employers, to be returned when the MDW is repatriated after her service. This deposit was immensely unpopular with the public, and four months later, the government announced that the amount would be halved. This was the first of many tweaks in MDW policy. The rocky beginnings of the FDSS, the how’s and why’s behind the evolution of MDW policies remain inadequately fleshed out in scholarly accounts of the MDW’s ubiquitous presence in Singapore. To fill this gap, this thesis contextualises and tracks MDW policies and public responses to the FDSS from 1978 to 1990, using mainly government papers, parliamentary debates, speeches and newspaper material. In public debates, MDWs became seen as the main solution to the working mother’s struggle between work and her domestic duties. Policymakers had to toggle between multivalent, sometimes contradictory policy objectives. MDW policy became tied with shifting migrant worker policies, population anxieties, and economic needs to improve productivity. Underlying these shifts in MDW policy is a commodification of both the working mother and migrant labour as units of production for economic development. In exploring the processes behind MDW policy shifts between 1978-1990, the classist, eugenicist, gendered and racist aspects of governmental conceptions of both MDWs and working mothers are brought into focus. Understanding and tracking the push-and-pull of these multivalent, oft-contradictory concerns of productivity, population and migrant labour in policymaking allows us to recognise the uneven historical processes behind the MDW’s emergence in Singapore. Deeper awareness of this complex genealogy allows for more trenchant questioning of the continued commodification and exploitation of the MDW in contemporary Singapore.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/228488
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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