Foreign domestic helpers in Singapore enter employment contracts which stipulate their rights and responsibilities as foreign workers in the country. Working outside of these terms, could spell trouble not only for the domestic helper but also for the employer.
But when working for other than one’s employer is not allowed by the law, how do maids and domestic workers get extra cash, especially when they’re facing financial problems back home? The quick answer to their money woes is money lenders or loan sharks, which are quite common here in Singapore, and for very practical reasons.
Maids Continue being Targeted by Unlicensed Moneylenders in Singapore
According to a report by the Singapore Police Force, cases of harassment related to activities of unlicensed moneylenders in the country have gone up by as much as 20% to 4,619 cases in 2018, as shared in a report by the Independent.
Moreover, a 33.5% increase in harassment by electronic means such as via social media or SMS has tallied the bulk of such cases reported from last year.
In order to address this emerging problem, the Police have coordinated with maid agencies as well as businesses to educate workers against soliciting help from loan sharks.
Even though the government’s efforts to set up police cameras within neighbourhoods have curbed the incidences of confrontational situations involving moneylenders paying a visit to their debtors’ place, which is usually someone else’s residence, since the victims have mostly been foreign workers such as maids and domestic workers, technology and new forms of communication such as the internet and smartphones have made it easier for loan sharks to communicate with their debtors in private. This also allows larger groups of people to be targeted.
Under the Moneylenders Act of 2010, first time offenders found guilty of loanshark harassment will be subject to a fine of not less than SGD 5,000 and not more than SGD 50,000 on top of mandatory imprisonment of up to five years and caning of up to six strokes.
Meanwhile, the public is advised to refrain from engaging loan sharks and not to work with or assist their activities (which some do for a commission) in any way. Members of the public may contact the police via 999 or the the X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664 to report any suspicious person or activities involved in the operation of loan sharks in the Republic.